Belladonna, or deadly nightshade, has a wide variety of uses in herbal medicine. Atropine, its main active compound, is reported to be useful in relieving gastrointestinal distress, controlling digestive secretions, and calming muscular tremors. Belladonna is also used to control excessive sweating, motion sickness, nausea and other cramping.
Only take belladonna as recommended by a physician. Never take a preparation of belladonna without first seeking professional advice. Adverse side effects include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, seizures, dry mouth with difficulty swallowing, and irregular heartbeat. Never handle the plant in the wild: all parts of the plant are poisonous and its toxic compounds can be absorbed directly through the skin.
Also be aware that belladonna, along with many other traditional herb remedies, are not subject to the rigorous government-mandated testing that other pharmaceuticals are. Few scientific studies exist that conclusively verify the efficacy of such herbal treatments.
Belladonna is said to ease the pain of severe menstrual cramps. Cramps of this magnitude are characterized by pain that circles the body at the lower back and are made worse by movement. Dosage is usually in the form of a tincture, or alcohol-based solution, which is diluted before ingesting.
Homeopaths may prescribe belladonna to patients with sudden and extremely painful ear infections. These kinds of ear infections have symptoms including red neck, ears and face, high fever, swollen glands and even nightmares. Dosage is by tincture or tablet.
Belladonna may aid in reducing fevers, especially those associated with heat or sunstroke. Dosage is by tincture or tablet.
Homeopaths or physicians with knowledge of alternative medical remedies may recommend a very diluted belladonna tincture for infant colic when the symptoms include spasms that suddenly come and go. The abdomen may feel warm to the touch during episodes of colic.
Another use of belladonna is for sudden-onset migraine headaches which are aggravated by motion and light. Belladonna in a tincture or tablet form is an appropriate remedy for migraines that can be partially relieved by massage, standing or leaning backwards.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis, an inflammation or infection of the mucous membranes of the eye, may be treated with belladonna only in the early phase of the infection. Belladonna will relieve associated burning, swelling and light sensitivity. A diluted eyedrop solution is usually applied topically, which may also dilate the pupil.
A topical application of belladonna can be used on skin that is afflicted with a yeast infection, and may help relieve red and inflamed skin that is painful to the touch.
While belladonna has not been proven to actually affect the progression of the disease, the herb may help manage the muscular spasms associated with Parkinson's. Dosage is via tincture or tablet.
Atropine, belladonna's active compound, has been studied extensively and is available in the United States and Canada in tablet and liquid form under several different brand names. It is used as a pre-operative medication to reduce saliva and other secretions, as an ophthalmologic agent, to treat irregular heartbeat and as an antidote for pesticide poisoning, according to a University of Maryland Medical Center summary of the compound.
Sources for Information
A plethora of printed resources are available for those interested in learning more about herbal and homeopathic remedies, and several academic studies of specific herbs or compounds cite these sources as references. There is great debate between medical professionals and practicing homeopaths as to the actual effectiveness of herbal remedies.
However, the only official guide for homeopathic remedies is the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, the U.S. government standard publication regarding herbal treatments. This volume provides overviews of each herbal remedy and sets forth standards for standard dosages and treatments.