Atropa Belladonna, more casually known simply as Belladonna, and oftentimes deadly nightshade, arguably holds the top ranking within modern day poisons as medicine. You may have also heard her referred to as dwale, devil's herb, love apple, sorcerer's cherry, witches berry, divale, and dwayberry. Belladonna is a member of the Solonaceae, or nightshade family.
To many, Belladonna is the star of the poisonous plants. A 1996 study, of over 29 years’ worth of poisonings reported in Switzerland, found that atropa belladonna had caused more documented number of serious poisoning cases than any other plant. Belladonna contains tropane alkaloids- notably scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine
Tropane alkaloids of this plant were used as poisons in early times. In 1030, Scotland’s King Duncan I passed around bottles of a drink made up of plant berries to an army of Danes during a period of truce, resulting in death to all Danes without any need for use of military force. Belladonna has been dubbed by some observers as the drug of assassins.
All parts of atropa are poisonous, though the root is believed to have the highest concentration of toxins. This being said, the berries are the usual suspect of accidental poisoning, due to their beauty and bewitching sweet taste.
The genus name comes from the name of the Greek goddess Atropos, who was one of the three Fates whose particular business was to hold the shears to cut the thread of human life (reference to poison).
Belladonna, meaning “beautiful lady”, was named such due to its historical use as a way for women to enlarge their pupils, which was said to make them more beautiful. Never mind that their vision was so seriously affected that they could barely walk or stand up straight.
Despite some questionable historical uses and lore, belladonna offers some exceptional medicinal properties as well. Atropine and scopolamine, both of which are derived from Belladonna, have important medicinal qualities. While they both have almost the same uses, atropine is more effective at relaxing muscle spasms and regulating heart rate. It’s also used to dilate the pupils during an eye exam. Atropine can also be an antidote for insecticides and chemical warfare agents. Scopolamine has many sources, including belladonna, and is more effective at reducing body secretions, such as stomach acid. It can also help motion sickness, via skin patch. Belladonna can also be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, stomach ulcers, Parkinson’s disease, diverticulitis, motion sickness, excessive nighttime urination, and pink eye, among others.
Prepared as a tincture, Belladonna can be beneficial against colds, flu, fever, cough, sore throat, inflammation, joint and back pain, earache, and gout.
Prepared as an ointment, Belladonna is amazing for migraines, tension headaches, anxiety, insomnia, nerve damage and nerve pain, back pain, muscle spasms/cramps, pulled/tense muscles, sciatica, pulled/torn tendons, tendinitis and bursitis, carpal tunnel, arthritis, rheumatism, pain/bruising after surgery, and the pain of menstrual cramps.
Belladonna is a nervine relaxant and can calm the nerves and reduce both psychological and physical tension. As Belladonna affects the nervous system directly, it can help to induce sleep – simply rub Belladonna ointment or oil into your temples, to the base of your neck, on the bottoms of your feet, and into your neck and shoulders, 1-2 hours before bedtime. The use of Belladonna for its sedative properties has also been reported to encourage pleasant, visually stimulating dreams. It is known for its aid in lucid dreaming.
Whether your personal relationship with Belladonna is that of a potent medicinal, a deadly poison, a historically sacred plant, or a precise weapon, as told in literature, it is hard to argue that she is the transcendent witches herb.
Black Henbane is a member of the Solanaceae family. While Henbane is in the same family as Mandragora, Belladonna, and Datura, its side effects are considerably milder. Henbane is a nervine relaxant, meaning it immediately targets the nervous system, aiding in the calming of nerves, reducing psychological and physical strain. The speed at which Henbane affects the nervous system, means that a larger amount of my hand poured ointment helps to induce sleep and acts as a sedative. Personally, I have noticed a marked improvement in my anxiety when incorporating my Henbane ointment. Henbane is known for its beneficial use with depression, hindered libido, insomnia, headaches, carpal tunnel, arthritis, as well as muscle and joint pain.
Henbane has been used in religious practices, basically anywhere it is wild grown, since the time of Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia. To this day, it is still used in many religious groups, as well as folk medicine practices. Henbane has long since been used for communicating with the deceased. There are records of this use in ancient grimoires originating from those such as Honorius, Agrippa, and Giambattista della Porta—the infamous Neapolitan scholar known for his studies of natural and physical science and his written publications on cosmology, popular science, optics, geology, poisons, cooking, medicines, plant products, etc.
Black Henbane has consistently been reported as one of the “witches herbs” and is included in the majority of recipes found for flying ointments. Witches are believed to have used Henbane to poison people. They are also said to have consumed a brew made of Henbane, while gathered for the sabbaths. Some say that witches used Henbane to bring on rainstorms and to curse not only people, but also their lands and their livestock. Many believe that it was Henbane that was referred to, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as the poison that killed Hamlet’s father. It was reportedly given to those order hanged, as a way to slightly sedate them.
Pharmacists of ancient times said that the dose makes the poison. During the time of the Middle Ages, not only was Henbane used as an fundamental part of the “soporific sponge”, which was used as an anesthetic before medical procedures, such as surgeries, but in the same time period, it was also referred to as “the insane seed that breedeth madness.” Today, medicinally, Henbane is credited for its part in the development of modern-day medical grade painkillers.
Wildly grown Henbane has been used in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, and motion sickness.
Mandragora Officinarum (Mandrake)
Mandrake is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
Abu' l-ruh, is Old Arabic for "master of the life breath".
Adam-Koku, is Turkish for "man root".
Bombochylos is Greek for "a juice that produces dull sounds".
Though often a character found in fairy tales or on the big screen, Mandrake is indeed a real life plant, found mostly in the Eastern regions of the Mediterranean. Known more casually as Devil's Apples, and Love Apples, this plant has been described as "the most famous magical plant in history" (Heiser 1987). Its medicinal and magical uses, its aphrodisiac and psychoactive effects, and its mythology and the legends surrounding the plat all raise it above the level of any other magical plant (Schlosser 1987; Schopf 1986; Starck 1986).
Historically, Mandrake was a valued inebriating, medicinal plant which was also used in ritual practices.
Mandrake is almost always included among the list of plants used in the witches ointment, but has never been the focus of any systematic study for its psychoactive properties. This is likely due to the difficulty in obtaining true Mandragora plant material.
Mandrake is stemless, but is comprised of a large, fleshy root that often takes on a anthropomorphic shape. Many stories tell of Mandrake root that resembles a man/woman form.
Mandrake's roots do flower, but only once a year. The leaves open up into beautiful violet/bluish, bell shaped blooms. Even after the flowers and leaves wither and die for the year, the root remains healthy--patiently anticipating the same ritual, the following year. Mandrake's fruit has a sweet taste, and the leaves are reminiscent of those of tobacco.
The root cortex, root, leaves, and fruit of Mandrake all contain psychoactive material and medicinal properties.
The most common form of Mandrake, when used for psychoactive results, is in tincture form, as the alkaloids within Mandrake are very water soluble.
Records from ritual use, refer to the fruits as "love apples". This helps to explain its importance as an aphrodisiac. The sweet scent of the golden yellow fruits are believed to be the origin of these properties.
Lore claims that the Mandrake root "screams", when unearthed. Stories were also told that the living being responsible for such task would immediately succumb to death, upon hearing the plant's scream. Dogs were even used in order to remove Mandrake root from the ground; they were tied to the plant and then encouraged to run in the direction opposite of the plant, causing it to be ripped from the Earth. This led way to the demise of the dog, but not to the human actually responsible.
Mandrake is a very potent narcotic, sedative, hallucinogen, and emetic.
Historically, medicinal uses of Mandrake have included an analgesic and anesthetic. Smoke from the powdered root was used as a fumigant, thought to serve as a medicinal exorcism, of sorts.
While certainly used in love magic, Mandrake was also used as an abortifacient, and as an inebriate.
The Mandrake plant is helpful in the treatment of arthritis, abscesses, disease and inflammation of the eyes, anxiety, discharge, possession, swollen glands, depression, uterine inflammation, painful joints, complications during labor, ulcers, tumors, gout, skin inflammation, hemorrhoids, impotence, hysteria, cramps, headaches, liver pains, melancholy, stomach ailments, menstrual problems, spleen pains, amenorrhea, snakebites, sleeplessness, scrofula, infertility, tubercles, callosities, poisoning, worms, loss of speech, wounds, toothaches, and general injuries.
It can certainly be said that not many other plants can boast such an exhaustive list of uses as the potent, revered Mandrake.
Mandrake was arguably the most influential anesthetic agent and/or narcotic of the Middle Ages. Mandrake was still the lone anesthetic, used in the soporific sponge, well into the period of the Early Renaissance.
Mandrake's second most crucial role, historically, was its use as a sleeping agent.
Mandrake has been mixed with mint, Mugwort, and cloves, then burned--the smoke inhaled as a treatment for severe headaches.
Mandrake's properties include that of an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, antisialagogue, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, aphrodisiac, euphoria inducer, anti-nausea, anticholinergic, and sleeping agent/sedative.
As a traditional witch, I use Mandrake in practice, as a purification and protection plant-both for my space and my body. I incorporate Mandrake into sex magic workings, astral travel, divination sessions- for mental enhancement, and for lucid dreaming.
Today, herbalists still treasure Mandrake for its ability to relieve muscle pain, chronic pain, acute pain, anxiety, slow libido, and also as a powerful sleeping agent. Mandrake is said to be the most effective of the nightshades for treating migraines. It also has milder side effects that either Datura or Belladonna.
If you're looking for the safest option for use as an aphrodisiac, I strongly recommend my Mandrake ointment. This particular ointment is the only one that is safe when coming into contact with mucous membranes, such as genitalia, mouth, or nasal passages. Simply apply ointment in desired area, two hours before the time you want to be "at your best". Aphrodisiac affects typically last up to 6 hours.
Datura Inoxia is often referred to as Angel’s Trumpet, as each bloom resembles the shape of a trumpet bell. It has also been known as pricklyburr, thorn-apple, indian-apple, moonflower, nacazcul, tolguache, and Toloache. Inoxia blooms uncurl in the evening and last only one night. Each bloom has a strong, almost sickeningly sweet scent. Inoxia is a member of the Solanaceae family, containing atropine, hyoscyamine, hyoscine, and scopolamine. All parts of D. Inoxia- the leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds, carry psychoactive and medicinal properties.
Medical text records show that the Aztec used “tolache” as a remedy for fevers and gout. The Maya used Inoxia as an aphrodisiac and in love magic workings. Indian tribes used Inoxia as a prophetic and oracular plant. The Apaches used the flowers to create a juice that was then used as a disinfectant. The Coahuillas used leaves, crushed in water, to make a remedy that was then rubbed into their horse’s saddle sores. The Costanoan used an ointment made from Inoxia’s leaves to treat burns. When heated and applied to the chest, Inoxia’s leaves aid breathing difficulties. The Mahuna used Inoxia to treat tarantula and rattlesnake bites. The Navajo used water essences to treat wounds, chewed the root to treat severe pain, and even for castration pain in their sheep. The Tubatulabal used Inoxia to treat constipation. Inoxia was used by the Zuni tribes as an anesthetic for surgery.
In Mexican folk medicine, Inoxia is one of the most sacred plants, used both as a sedative and an aphrodisiac.
In many cultures, Inoxia is a sacred hallucinogenic, called yerba del diablo in Castandas "Don Juan".
If one looks deep enough into the history of Inoxia, it would be very difficult to find an ailment that wasn’t treated by some part of parts of the Datura Inoxia plant.
Used in rituals, Inoxia is used to more effectively commune with spirits and one’s ancestors. Other uses include the banishing of spirits and protection from malicious spirits.
Inoxia has been used in dream rituals, as it is a highly regarded dream and divination herb. Reports show that Inoxia encourages lucid dreaming.
A slightly larger dosage can be used to experience Inoxia’s sedative and/or aphrodisiac properties. This perhaps is the most common use of my Inoxia ointment. As reported by Ratsch and Probat 1985, 1139, “The skin acquired an unimagined sensitivity. A simple, light caress became a tender, fulfilling experience. The blood collected in our lower abdomens so quickly that it demanded we join. The normal sexual functions were extremely heightened. Every form of erotic exchange and sexual activity had a special deliciousness. The time to orgasm was much longer, and the orgasm itself appeared to last for minutes. During the phase of sexual activity, we were both pleasantly free of thoughts, uninhibited, and very much focused on the moment. The effects lasted the entire night, so that there were any couplings. The next morning, after a short sleep with erotic dreams (!), we awoke with a clean consciousness, a very pleasurable warm sensation in the body, a still overly sensitive skin and a dry throat”.
Modern day herbalists recognize and encourage the use of Inoxia for headaches, insomnia, stress, rheumatism, new and old bone injuries, deep tissue bruising and/or bruising of bones, bone on bone injuries, arthritis, carpal tunnel, as well as joint and tendon issues. It also aids with depression and anxiety and helps to calm frayed nerves.