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What is Belladonna?

Belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, is an herb that has been used for centuries in herbal medicine. The belladonna plant contains tropane alkaloids such as atropine and scopolamine, which have pharmacological effects on the body. In supplements, a standardised belladonna leaf powder is typically used. This powder guarantees a specific percentage of the active alkaloids.

How Does Belladonna Work?

The active substances in belladonna, including atropine and scopolamine, produce an anticholinergic effect in the body. This means they block the action of acetylcholine - a neurotransmitter that activates muscles. When muscles around certain organs are impacted by belladonna, beneficial effects can occur. For example, belladonna has a relaxing effect on intestinal and abdominal muscle spasms, providing relief from cramping and spastic pain. The anticholinergic properties also have an anti-sweating effect.

What Are the Uses & Benefits of Belladonna?

Some common uses and benefits of taking belladonna supplements can include:

  • Alleviating gastrointestinal spasms, intestinal cramping, and colic pain
  • Reducing excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Lessening symptoms of motion sickness, including nausea and vertigo
  • Managing heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Temporarily relieving symptoms of Parkinson's disease
  • Relaxing lung spasms to support respiration

When used appropriately and under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner, belladonna supplements can safely provide relief to those struggling with these conditions.

The dose of belladonna depends on the concentration of alkaloids in the particular product, which can vary widely. Always follow label directions carefully and start at the lowest dosage to assess tolerance. Standardised belladonna leaf at a dose of 200-800 micrograms of belladonna alkaloids has been used for intestinal spasms, sweating, and motion sickness. For other uses such as heart palpitations and Parkinson's symptoms, the dosage may range from 0.5-5 milligrams daily but should only be determined by a healthcare practitioner familiar with belladonna. It’s important not to exceed recommended dosages due to the risks of belladonna toxicity.

When Should You Avoid Taking Belladonna?

Belladonna should be avoided in the following situations:

  • Pregnancy/breastfeeding - Belladonna is likely unsafe in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to the anticholinergic effects on the body
  • Children - Belladonna can be toxic for young children and should not be used
  • Elderly or frail - The anticholinergic effects increase risks of confusion, urinary retention, constipation and more
  • Certain medical conditions - Avoid if you have glaucoma, kidney/liver disease, stomach ulcers, myasthenia gravis, heart block, or seizure disorder, among other contraindications
  • Interactions - Belladonna may interact with certain medications and other herbs/supplements

If in doubt, speak to your healthcare practitioner first about whether belladonna is appropriate for your individual health circumstances.

Does Belladonna Have Side Effects?

At standard doses, belladonna can cause some side effects like:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flushing and dry skin
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Constipation
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)

Higher doses can lead to more serious side effects associated with belladonna toxicity including hallucinations, confusion, delirium and seizures. Seek urgent medical care if you experience concerning side effects from belladonna.

Can You Take Belladonna Every Day?

Belladonna is not intended for long-term daily use. Treatment regimens are tailored to the individual but typically involve using belladonna for a short period of time to manage acute symptoms. For sweating and gastrointestinal spasms, intermittent use of belladonna for symptom relief when needed may be appropriate. For other indications, daily use should not extend beyond one to two weeks without medical guidance. Speak to your naturopath or health practitioner to develop an appropriate dosing regimen per your symptoms and health status.

Is Belladonna Safe With Other Medications?

Belladonna can potentially interact with many common medications. Drugs with anticholinergic properties, including certain antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, bladder antispasmodics, and Parkinson’s medications are most likely to interact with belladonna. Over-the-counter sleeping pills, dramamine, oxybutynin and diphenoxylate are also among interacting drugs. Combining these could lead to excessive anticholinergic effects. Make sure your doctor is aware of any belladonna use before prescribing or taking new medications.

Does Belladonna Show Up On Drug Tests?

It is unlikely that belladonna would lead to a positive drug test. Standard workplace drug panels do not test for belladonna alkaloids or atropine. However, belladonna properties can sometimes interfere with certain urine tests. Urine samples may need dilution or special preparation to get accurate readings after taking belladonna. Inform the testing coordinator if you’ve recently used belladonna products to ensure proper precautions are taken. Routine drug tests are not designed to pick up this herbal compound though.

Can You Overdose On Belladonna?

Yes, taking too much belladonna can result in overdose called belladonna poisoning. Consuming as few as 2 berries from the Belladonna plant can be fatal. With prepared belladonna supplements, overdose is still possible if vastly exceeding doses or through combining with interacting drugs.

Overdose symptoms require emergency treatment and may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry flushed skin
  • Tachycardia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Coma

Seek immediate medical help if you experience these severe effects after taking belladonna.

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