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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Alkaloids

Belladonna consists of dried leaves and flowering tops of Atropa belladonna Linn. (European Belladonna), belonging to family Solanaceae. It contains about 0.35% of total alkaloids calculated as hyoscyamine.






Belladonna herb; Belladonna leaf; Deadly night shade leaves; Banewort; Death’s herb, Dwale; Poison black cherry; Folia belladonnae.


Biological Source


Belladonna consists of dried leaves and flowering tops of Atropa belladonna Linn. (European Belladonna), belonging to family Solanaceae. It contains about 0.35% of total alkaloids calculated as hyoscyamine.


Geographical Source


A . belladonna is cultivated in United States, Canada, UK, Germany and India.


Cultivation and Collection


Plants are cultivated by sowing seeds in nurseries and seed-lings are transplanted in April to moist, calcareous and loamy soil. Weeds are removed and manure is applied for proper growth of the crop. During flowering session leaves and flowering tops are cut at least three times in a year at an interval of two months from one to three years old plants. When the plant is four years old, roots are dug out. The collected drug is dried at 40–50°C. Un-dried leaves deterio-rate and give off ammonia. Belladonna plant infected with the fungus Phytophthora belladonnae should be destroyed to prevent further infection. Sometimes the leaves are damaged by flea-bettle insect and the roots by a fungus.




The drug contains leaves, smaller stems of about 5 mm diameter, flowers and fruits. Leaves are stalked, brittle, thin, entire, long-pointed, 5–25 cm long, 2.5–12 cm wide, ovate lanceolate, slightly decurrent lamina, margine-entire, apex acuminate, colour dull-green or yellowish-green, surface glabrous, lateral veins join the midrib at an angle of 60°C, curving upwards and are anastomose. The upper side is darker than the lower. Each has a petiole about 0.5–4 cm long and a broadly ovate, slightly decurrent lamina about 5–25 cm long and 2.5–12 cm wide. The margin is entire and the apex acuminate. A few flowers and fruits may be present. If the leaves are broken, they are characterized by the venation and roughness of the surface due to the presence of calcium oxalate in some mesophyll cells which causes minute points on the surface of the leaf on drying. The flowers blooming in June are solitary, shortly stalked, drooping and about 2.5 cm long. The corolla is campanulate, five-lobed and of a dull purplish colour. The five-lobed calyx is persistent, remaining attached to the purplish-black berry. The fruit is bilocular, contains numerous seeds and is about the size of a cherry. A yellow variety of the plant lacks the anthocyanin pigmentation.





A transverse section of the leaf of A. belladonna has a bifacial structure. The epidermal cells have-wavy walls and a striated cuticle. Anisocytic type and some of the anomocytic type stomata arc present on both surfaces but are most common on the lower. Hairs are most numerous on young leaves, uni-seriate, two- to four-celled clothing hairs; or with a uni-cellular glandular head. Some hair has a short: pedicel and a multicellular glandular head. Certain of the cells of the spongy mesophyll are filled with micro-sphenoidal (sandy) crystals of calcium oxalate. The midrib is convex above and shows the usual bicollateral vascular bundle. A zone of collenchyma is present in epidermis near midrib.


Chemical Constituents


Belladonna contains 0.3–1.0% total alkaloids, the prominent base is l-hyoscyamine and other components are atropine, apoatropine, as choline, belladonnine, cuscohygrine, chrysa-tropic acid, volatile bases, such as atroscine, leucatropic acid; phytosterol, N-methylpyrroline, homatropine, hyoscyamine N-oxide, rutin, kaempferol-3-rhamnogalactoside and 7-glu-coside, quercetin-7-glucoside, scopoletin, calcium oxalate, 14% acid soluble ash and 4% acid-insoluble ash. Addition of ammonia to the alcoholic solution of scopoletin shows blue florescence. This test is useful to detect Belladonna poisoning. Atropine is formed by racemization during the extraction process.






The drug is used as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of peptic ulcer; functional digestive disorders, including spastic, mucous and ulcerative colitis; diarrhoea, diverticulitis and pancreatitis. Due to anticholinergic property, it is used to control excess motor activity of the gastrointestinal tract and spasm of the urinary tract.


Belladonna is anticholinergic, narcotic, sedative, diuretic mydriatic and used as anodyne and to check secretion. Other uses are similar to Hyoscyamus. It relieves spasm of gut or respiratory tract. Consumption of Belladonna checks excessive perspiration of patients suffering from tuberculosis. Belladonna acts as a parasympathetic depressant.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as Belladona plaster (Surgi Pharma) for backache, stiffness of muscles and boil, swollen joints.


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