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History Of Belladonna Plant

Atropa belladonna is a highly toxic plant. This plant has been known since pre-historic times. When we look into the history of belladonna plant, ancient legends claim that this plant is grown by devil. It was given the name belladonna after the ancient belief that the plant can take the form of a beautiful woman to entice victims to consume the poison. It is also believed to be the plant that poisoned the army of Marcus Antonius in the Parthian wars.

The history of atropa belladonna shows that during Chaucer’s time in England, belladonna plant is known as dwale. Because it doesn't grow in great quantities in England, its history in Southern Europe most likely goes much further back than the recorded history of the Parthian wars. In the history of deadly nightshade, the first recorded used of this plant was for cosmetic reasons rather than therapeutic. The name ’belladonna’ literally means beautiful woman, and this may have been a result from the practice of Italian, Egyptian, and Babylonian women who used it to dilate their eyes so as to appear more appealing to future suitors.

The belladonna history reflects that  the derivatives of belladonna have been used as an antidote to several poisonous substances, which include chloroform, opium, and the deadly insecticide, parathion. The history of belladonna also reveals that the generic name of the plant, Atropa, is derived from the Greek word Atropos, one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human life - a reference to its deadly, poisonous nature. In the history of belladonna plant, most belladonna generally comes from wild plants in Southern Europe before World War I. During that time the industry of belladonna was important to Croatia and Slavonia.

In the history of belladonna plant, the yearly production rate during that time in the above mentioned areas was to be about 60-100 tons of dry leaves & 150-200 tons of dry roots annually. Till today, belladonna plant is very important in the scientific and medical communities because of the chemicals it contains. All parts of the plant contain alkaloids, but the highest content is in the ripe fruit and the green leaves. In the United States, the plant is cultivated in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and Wisconsin. Some American farms even export to Europe.