Plant Cultivation Information for the following Plants:
Belladonna, Black Henbane, Carob tree, Coleus, Datura, Opium Poppy,
Morning Glory flowers, Mescal Bean, Poison Hemlock, Syrian Rue, & Wormwood.
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Moonflower and Jimson Weed are the most well known Daturas. Since Datura is plentiful throughout Europe and the Americas, it has a long history of psychoactive use. Its main component is the alkaloid atropine, an excellent remedy for asthma, motion sickness and poisonous nerve gas, but itself is toxic in high doses. This genus has nine to 15+ species ranging from annuals to perennials, all with upright, trumpet-shaped flowers and green, oblong seed pods covered in long, sharp spikes. The plant was used by European gypsies, shaman from many indigenous peoples worldwide including the Aztecs, was mentioned in the Kama Sutra, and has been used widely in witchcraft. The common weed “poisoned” a group of British soldiers in Jamestown. Night blooming and moth pollinated, the Daturas are easy to cultivate and grow.
Common names: Jimson Weed, Moonflower.
Species Alba; arborea; ceratocaula; discolor; fastuosa; ferox; inoxia; leichhardtii; metel; meteloides; nanakai; quercifolia; sanguinea; stramonium; tatula; wrightii.
AKA: Devil’s Apple; Thorn Apple; Stinkweed; Devil’s Weed; Malpitte; Toloache; Yerba del Diablo, Mad Apple, El Toloache, Concombre Zombie, Sacred Datura, Green Dragon, Love Angel’s Trumpet, Devil’s Trumpet; Dhatura Tatula, Apple of Peru.
Plant Parts Used:
Asthma, ulcers, colds, nervous affections, sleep disorders, pain relief, hemorrhoids, neuralgia, epilepsy, antidote for nerve gas, whooping cough.
Sedative, narcotic, anodyne, antispasmodic, anesthetic, mydriatic, calmative, diuretic, nervine, demulcent, expectorant.
Saturn, Venus. Datura has been used to hex and break hexes, induce dreams, find one’s totem animal, see ghosts; also for divination, protection from evil, lucid dreaming; was used in many ancient witches’ “flying ointment” formulas.
Tropane alkaloids: Atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine. Stramonium contains the same alkaloids as Belladonna, yet Stramonium seems to produce greater delirium than Belladonna. The leaves contain potassium nitrate. The seeds are 25% oil.
Vivid or frank hallucinations, delirium, delusions, incoherent babbling, loss of memory. Symptoms can last as long as 11 days or more from a single oral ingestion.
Tropane alkaloids including hyoscine (roots); hyoscyamine, scopolamine and atropine (all parts). As anti-cholinergic deliriants, they block muscarinic receptors, which in turn stimulate the dopaminergic neurons. They are readily absorbed and partially metabolized by the liver, but mostly eliminated in urine. The peripheral receptors are on the exocrine glands (which affect sweating, salivation, and cardiac muscles).
Methods of Ingestion:
Smoke leaves, drink tea, eat crushed seeds, apply tincture, oils.
Datura Overdose Effects:
Deaths have been documented from oral ingestion of Datura seeds.
Warning: Do NOT experiment with Datura!
If you insist on taking it internally, have a trained Body Sitter present with antidotes on hand who is available for up to a week.
Danger! Atropine disrupts the parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to regulate vital non-volitional and subconscious functions such as temperature control, breathing and heart rate.
Delirium and severely impaired judgment have caused deaths due to injury or hypothermia.
Physostigmine, pilocarpine, jaborandi, tannic acid, colonic irrigation; morphine; amyl nitrite.
Body Sitter interventions:
Datura, much like its siblings belladonna, mandrake and henbane, contains dangerous tropane alkaloids, particularly atropine. Native to Asia, it belongs to the nightshade family which includes all tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tobacco. The flowers are very beautiful and often have a very powerful, lily-like or lemony fragrance; people who sleep in the presence of the blooms can have intense dreams and nightmares caused by psychoactive particles transmitted by the flower’s scent. Even the honey from these plants can be poisonous. Well known for causing delirious states as well as poisonings in uninformed users who are not aware that usage may be deadly and frightening.
Datura is a woody-stalked, light green annual or biennial shrubby plant that that grows 4 to 6 feet (one to three meters) tall. The stem is stout, erect and leafy, smooth, a pale yellowish-green in color, branching repeatedly in a forked manner. The leaves are large and angular, 4 to 6 inches long, uneven at the base, with a wavy and coarsely-toothed margin, and have the strong, branching veins very plainly developed. The upper surface is dark and grayish-green, generally smooth, the under surface paler, and when dry, minutely wrinkled.
The plant flowers nearly all summer and into fall. The flowers are large and handsome, about 3 inches in length, growing singly on short stems springing from the axils of the leaves or at the forking of the branches. The calyx is long, tubular and somewhat swollen below, and very sharply five-angled, surmounted by five sharp teeth. The corolla, folded and only half-opened, is funnel-shaped, of a pure white, with six prominent ribs, which are extended into the same number of sharp-pointed segments. Usually white, sometimes light to deep lavender flowers, solitary and tubular, sometimes doubled.
The flowers open in the evening to attract night-flying moths, and emit a powerful fragrance. The flowers evolve into a four-lobed, harshly thorny, green seed pod; fruit ripens in early fall to early winter. Each lobe contains about 50, 2-3 mm, oval, black seeds. Some species (inoxia) have larger, kidney-shaped, brown seeds.
The most well-known species are D. stramonium (Jimson weed) and D. inoxia (moonflower). The plants, seeds, flowers, and roots have all been traditionally used for medicinal or visionary purposes around the world. Dried leaves have been made into smoking blends, sometimes with in combination with tobacco or Cannabis, and all parts have been used to make teas and ointments.
Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, wrote in 301 BCE about the hallucinogenic effects of Datura stramonium. The Buddhist scripture Vajramahabhairava Tantra refers to Datura metel several times. The priests of Apollo used it for divination, as did the Oracle of Delphi. Aztec and Hopi Indians used it to induce prophetic visions.
The ancient Indian sex manual Kamasutra of Vātsyāyana includes at least two references to Datura. One reference instructs a man to anoint his penis with honey infused with Datura before sexual intercourse. Also in ancient India, Datura was associated with the worship of Shiva, and it was used as a poison to stupefy and kill prisoners, the professional poisoners being called Dhatureeas. Thieves in India have used it to incapacitate their victims before robbing them.
Gypsies, who smoked the leaves, brought the plant into Europe from Asia in the sixteenth century. Soon, herbalists and witches in Europe and the American Colonies were making “Flying Formulas” from Datura and other nightshades, as well as using it for incantations by inhaling the plant fumes.
Jimson weed acquired its current name as an evolution of its nickname “James-Town weed” which was based on a notorious accidental poisoning of a group of British soldiers in 1676. Robert Beverly wrote of the incident in 1705:
“The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the Plant so called) is supposed to be one of the greatest Coolers in the World. This being an early Plant, was gathered very young for a boiled Salad, by some of the Soldiers sent thither, to pacify the Troubles of Bacon; and some of them eat plentifully of it, the Effect of which was a very pleasant Comedy; for they turned natural Fools upon it for several Days: One would blow up a Feather in the Air; another would dart Straws at it with much Fury; and another stark naked was sitting up in a Corner, like a Monkey, grinning and making Mows at them; a Fourth would fondly kiss, and paw his Companions, and sneer in their Faces… Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own Excrements, if they had not been prevented. A Thousand such simple Tricks they played, and after Eleven Days, returned to themselves again, not remembering any thing that had passed.”
Used as a medicinal component in many current asthma remedies. Classified as a Schedule 1 illegal drug in the state of Nevada. Used by witches and shaman.
The genus Datura has 9 to 20 species ranging from annual to perennial, herbs to shrubs. Most have trumpet-shaped flowers usually pointing upwards during bloom. All of these species are considered hallucinogenic and potentially lethal.
Category: Annual, biennial, short-lived perennial.
Native Origin: Asia; naturalized to the Middle East, Europe, the Americas. Central America hosts more species of Datura than any other region.
Full-sun; well-drained (gravel/sand) stream bank or rich meadow.
Soil Requirements: Rich, well-drained soil. As a rule, they need warm, sunny places and soil that will keep their roots dry. When grown outdoors in good locations, the plants tend to reseed themselves and may become invasive. In clay containers, they need porous, aerated soil with adequate drainage. The plants are susceptible to fungi in the root area, so avoid compost and manure.
Soil pH: Neutral to Alkaline.
Soil Mix: Sand, peat and perlite.
Sun: Full range. Full sun to mostly sunny preferred. Will tolerate nearly full shade if not too dense.
Water: Moist, but well drained. Water frequently.
Fertilization: Monthly once established, but not required.
Planting time: Early Spring.
Spacing: 4-6 ft. apart.
Height: 3-6 ft. Plants grown in pots are substantially smaller.
Hardiness: Frost will take small plants back to root ball. Larger plants tolerate light frost, but lose leaves.
Seed Germination time: One to ten weeks. Intermittent germinator.
Seed Germination methods: Cold stratify in a freezer for a week. Carefully pull off the elaiosome or any white “flesh” left on the seed, soak seeds overnight, plant in peat pots, use bottom heat, indoors, put out after last frost; or,
Direct sow 3mm deep in late Winter or Spring at or just before last frost.
Seed Pollination: Wind and nocturnal moths, especially the Hawk moth.
Plant Propagation methods:
Seed only. Not suitable for cloning.
Harvest: Early to Late Fall. Harvest leaves during flowering; Pick seed pods individually just after they first split and allow to dry whole before dismantling. Seeds in the pod mature at different rates. Immature seeds harvested prior to the first split are reputed to be higher in active alkaloids than ripe seeds, will likely not germinate well if at all, and are usually lighter in color or off-color.
Bloom time: Summer through fall.
Pests: Beetles. Do NOT use pesticides on Daturas.
USDA Zones: Zones 5 to 11. Tolerates wide range of growing conditions.
Brugmansia spp. (tree datura); Brugmansia flowers are much larger and droop straight down, found in white, orange, pink and yellow. Brugmansia can also grow to 12 feet tall and tends to be denser and bushier than Datura.
Plant Spirit Message:
“Don’t mess with me, or I will mess you up.”
Datura can be tricky to germinate, but once sprouted, plants are very hardy, tolerating a wide variety of growing conditions. They often grow back after a frost. The author found one wild and very healthy plant growing under a bridge in gravel next to a stream bed. It was perfectly situated to get morning sun with a high water table in well drained soil protected from all frost. The happy plant had wet feet but was growing in gravel and sand. However, a huge patch was also found in a rich meadow in the overflow area of a small river, indicating a compatible habitat.
The various species of Datura offer a wide variety of flowers and plant architecture. Datura meteloides grows to about 3 feet tall but can spread to 4 feet wide. Datura metel may grow to 5 feet but is an upright plant. Datura stramonium can grow to 6 feet or more and is bushier than D. metel and has smaller leaves.
Datura flowers are all trumpet shaped and stand upright. They tend to open in the early evening and will close the next day unless the weather is cool or cloudy, then they may stay open. Many species have a sweet scent that can be very strong. The seed pods are often spiny. Different species have different spination on the pods. All parts of the Datura plant are toxic and should not be eaten.
Once established, Datura plants are durable and tolerant of dry conditions. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate plenty of water and some fertilizer, however. The better you treat them the more vigorously they will grow and flower.
Sow seeds indoors around February or March about 10 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Use peat pots for growing the seeds so the seedlings can be planted directly outdoors in the garden without upsetting the roots; Datura seedlings are very fragile. Fill the peat pots with a humus rich soil and moisten well. Spread the seeds over the soil; cover the pots with clear plastic wrap and sit in a sunny area. Keep the soil moist; do not let dry out. Seeds need warm temperatures of around 70 degrees F to germinate. Seeds will germinate within 3 to 6 weeks.
The Daturas are generally grown from seeds in early spring. They should be started in flats indoors in the North, or where they are to stand in warmer areas. The perennial species usually rise from thick tuberous roots. In the North these may be dug in autumn and stored in semi-dry peat moss, sawdust, or sand in a cool place until spring. These daturas generally prefer loose, sandy soils, somewhat on the dry side, and a sunny location. Those native to the Southwest will stand considerable drought.
Does well in rich soil in a dry, sunny location. May be sown in the open in May in mounds 18 inches apart with four seeds in each mound. Thin out all but the healthiest plant after sprouting. Hardy. All species of Datura seed can tolerate freezing. Often they die back and then resprout from the root ball next Spring.
Preparing seed: “Stratification” is when seed is frozen and then thawed to improve germination rates. Datura benefit from stratification. Even so, germination rates can be low with many species. Should be started in damp peat moss. Do not pre-soak the seeds.
Planting: Datura can be sown directly in the ground or started indoors as early as Feb or March. Any head start will speed flowering, but seed planted in the ground will have plenty of time to flower. Do not give up hope if the seed seems to take forever to sprout. It will grow when it’s ready. Warmth and moisture are key factors. When the seed is warm, moist and happy it will grow, and not before. Moist does not mean wet.
Transplanting: Daturas do not like to be disturbed. If you start indoors, use Jiffy pots so that you can transplant without disturbing the roots. If you don’t use Jiffy pots, transplant carefully, keeping as much soil in place around the roots as possible. Water well and keep watered until plants show continued growth.
Spacing: D. meteloides especially can spread generously. Four feet width is not uncommon in a sunny, fertile location. As compensation for its size, it will be covered with beautiful white flowers.
Herbicides: Do not use insecticide! They tend to cause stunted, deformed leaf growth. Do not use any insecticide that you spray on the leaves. One grower used systemic nicotine with success. Keep all herbicides far away, as they kill Daturas. Weeding should be done by hand or with mulch.
Harvesting: The leaves and tops are preferably harvested when the plants are in full bloom, but they may be gathered at any time from the appearance of flowers until frost. They should be stripped from the stem and dried as quickly as possible. Fresh leaves have a fetid odor, which disappears after drying. Seeds harvested for psychoactive purposes are collected by removing the capsules when they are ripe, but are still green and unopened. These are dried in the sun or by low heat. Seeds for growing purposes should be gathered by collecting capsules that are just opening, removing the seeds and drying in the sun.
Oral ingestion is highly dangerous, unpredictable and unwise. Never use alone, if at all. Atropine users MUST have a designated body sitter. Numerous deaths and mental health lock-ups are documented in the USA and elsewhere, primarily amongst uninformed teenage males. All the death reports read by the author consisted of documented cases where teenage males ate seeds or drank a strong tea made from leaves or seeds.
NOTE: NO deaths were reported by Erowid from smoking the leaves, or using topical oils.
Used in ancient India as a poison to stupefy and kill prisoners. Used for divination and visions by the priests of Apollo, European gypsies, the Oracle of Delphi, ancient Aztecs, and many other native peoples.
Traditionally, Datura has been smoked or inhaled by nearly all who have used it successfully. Gypsies smoked the leaves, and some believe the Oracle at Delphi inhaled the fumes of burning Datura leaves to attain her insights.
Datura was one of the key ingredients used by witches in ancient “Flying Formulas,” also for incantations. The topical efficacy of Datura was confirmed by author Michael J. Harner in his 1973 book Hallucinogens and Shamanism, where he wrote:
“Some years ago I ran across a reference to the use of a Datura ointment by the Yaqui Indians of northern Mexico, reportedly rubbed on the stomach to see visions. I called this to the attention of my friend and colleague Carlos Castañeda, who was studying under a Yaqui shaman, and asked him to determine if the Yaqui used the ointment for flying and to determine its effects.
I quote from his subsequent experience with the ointment of Datura:
‘The motion of my body was slow and shaky. I looked down and saw don Juan sitting below me, way below me. The momentum carried me forward one more step. And from there I soared. I remember coming down once, then I pushed up with both feet, sprang backward, and glided on my back. I saw the dark sky above me and clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary. I changed directions by turning my head…’”
Currently used in many asthma medicines in the USA.
In Appalachia, a folk medicine poultice made from fresh flowers is applied to wounds as a pain killer. An ointment made of mashed seeds and fat was used historically to treat sores, boils, pimples, bruises, bites, burns, wounds, cuts, and swellings. Pioneers smoked the leaves for asthma. Once used to calm patients before setting fractured bones. In Mendocino County, California, circa 1884, one of the early white settlers imported Datura seeds to grow and would use the plants to make a healing poultice to apply to any wounds on his horses.
Atropine paralyses the endings of the pulmonary branches, thus relieving bronchial spasms. The practice of smoking D. ferox for asthma was introduced into Great Britain from the East Indies, and afterwards the English species was substituted for that employed in Hindustan. In Ceylon, the leaves, stem and seed pods are chopped up to make burning powders for the treatment of asthma. Traditionally, the dried, crumbled leaves are mixed with an equal part of potassium nitrate (to increase combustion) and the mixture is burned in a saucer; the resulting smoke is then inhaled.
The dried leaves may also be rolled into herbal cigarettes or smoked in a pipe, either alone or with other herbs such as tobacco, sage, belladonna, etc. The smoke from a stramonium cigarette made from 0.25 grams of stramonium leaf contains up to 0.5 milligrams of pure atropine. Dryness of the throat and mouth are to be regarded as indications that too large a quantity is being taken.
Datura acts similarly to belladonna, but without causing constipation. It can be used for any purpose for which belladonna is employed: dilating the pupils, etc. It is considered slightly more sedative to the central nervous system than belladonna. Stramonium is so similar to belladonna in its symptoms, toxicity and general physiological and therapeutic action, that the two plants are practically identical in alkaloid effects.
The seeds are generally used in the form of an extract, prepared by boiling the seeds in water, or macerating them in alcohol. A tincture is sometimes preferred. A tincture is made from the unripe fruit and a trituration of the seeds.
Applied locally, in ointment, plasters or fomentation, stramonium will palliate the pain of muscular rheumatism, neuralgia, and also pain due to hemorrhoids, fistula, abscesses and similar inflammation.
Datura causes frank hallucinations, meaning that the person cannot distinguish between the hallucinations and real objects. Elaborate visions and fantasies are common, sometimes including long conversations with imaginary persons.
Datura may cause severe, long-lasting disorientation, confusion, delirium, and hallucinations. Users consistently lose the ability to be rational or perform basic functions needed for survival. Many users report periods of several hours to several days in which they have no memory of what they were doing. Behavior is often irrational and accidental injury is a serious risk. Datura also causes physical effects including blurred vision, inability to focus the eyes (lasting up to several days), dryness of mouth, sedation or excitement, inhibited digestion, constriction of the throat, and an inability to perspire. Effects can last for weeks.
Traditionally, successful users have a consistent history of non-oral ingestion. The scent of the flowers was often adequate to produce visions, other users dried and smoked the fresh leaves. Still others would make a paste out of crushed seeds, or a tincture from fresh leaves, and apply it topically to sensitive skin areas, such as armpits or labia.
Asthma remedies. Witchcraft. Primarily grown as an ornamental bush or border plant, with beautiful flowers and weird, dangerous, spiky seed pods.
Datura alkaloids can have serious toxic effects on humans, including coma and death. Just 4-5 grams of dried Datura stramonium leaves can contain a lethal dose of alkaloids; flowers and seeds are even more potent.
Jim DeKorne noted that Datura and other tropane-containing plants are often associated with an aggressive feminine force (he references Kali) that has been viciously repressed in the West and that this might well be the reason so many people have negative experiences with these plants.
Oral ingestion of Datura has caused numerous, documented DEATHS.
The highest concentration of alkaloids occurs in the seeds: they contain approximately 0.1 mg of atropine per seed, or 3-6 mg/50-100 seeds. An estimated lethal dose for an adult is more than 10 mg of atropine or greater than 2-4 mg of scopolamine, depending upon body weight and other factors.
In other words, about 150 seeds may be a fatal dose for an average adult.
Just four or five grams of dried Datura stramonium leaves can contain a lethal dose of dangerous alkaloids.
Recipes and Dosage:
Scopolamine and atropine are anti-cholinergic deliriants with a half-life of about four hours. They block the muscarinic receptors, which in turn stimulate the dopaminergic neurons.
Datura seeds and pods are usually more potent than the leaves, stems and roots. Potency increases over the reproductive period and peaks when the plant is fruiting.
As few as 10 Datura seeds taken orally or one leaf brewed into a tea can produce profound perceptual changes; 30-40 seeds are an extremely potent dose and should never be consumed. Quantities over 100 can be fatal. Alkaloid content varies from plant to plant.
Users typically report diminished capacity, which can lead to unwisely consuming more Datura until it is all gone, as well as your sanity. One stoned user decided unwisely to cook more tea, then forgot the stove was lit and wandered away (his wife saved the house from burning down and then went to rescue the family pets who had all run away out forgotten open doors). Once a Datura journey begins, all additional intoxicants and plant parts should be removed from the user and the site by the designated Body Sitter.
Please: Never use Datura without a designated, trained Body Sitter, who is available continuously for a period of 24 hours minimum to about 12 days maximum. This person watches your human physical body while you literally abandon it.
Smoking Leaf. Pick one large, fresh, healthy Datura leaf. Let dry in dim light, low humidity for three to seven days (until dry). Smoke slowly, waiting 10 minutes between hits to judge potency.
Leaf Tea. Pick one large, fresh, healthy Datura leaf. Bring one quart of water to a boil and add the leaf. Simmer for 20 minutes. Drink half first to judge potency, add more only if necessary.
Seed Tea. One user reported success with this formula (NOT endorsed by DD):
Ancient Flying Formulas included herbs such as aconitum, belladonna, calamus root, Potentilla simplex, Artemisia absinthium, mandrake, poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), hellebore and henbane. Other intoxicants in the formula include hashish (Cannabis indica) and/or opium poppy juice (Papaver somniferum). The herbs are added to the cooked fat of a freshly killed duck and made into a salve or ointment. Traditionally, witches rubbed the ointment on a stick which was held between their unclothed labia. Such formulas are still kept secret.
Since Atropine is absorbable through healthy skin, rubbing ointments made from atropine-containing Solanaceous plants would be an effective way to become intoxicated. Using an original, seventeenth-century formula, folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert of Göttingen, Germany cooked up an ointment made from belladonna, henbane and Datura. He rubbed it on his forehead and armpits, asking his colleagues to do likewise. They all fell into a deep, 24-hour sleep. He reported:
“We had wild dreams. Faces danced before my eyes which were at first terrible. Then I suddenly had the sensation of flying for miles through the air. The flight was repeatedly interrupted by great falls. Finally, in the last phase, an orgiastic feast with sensual excess.”
Syrian Rue Peganum harmala
Family: Zygophyllaceae (Caltrop family.)
Material: Seeds of woody perennial native to Middle East. (Roots also active but seldom used.)
Usage: An acidic extraction of 2-8 grams of seeds is prepared and consumed when used with the root bark of mimosa hostilis in a traditional Jurema formula.
Active Constituents: Harmine, harmaline and harmalol. Indole-based alkaloid found in several plants including Banisteriopsis caapi (from which the South American hallucinogenic brew yage is prepared), Peganum harmala (Syrian rue), Zygophyllum fabago, and Passiflora incarnata (Passion flower).
Effects and Contraindications: Hallucinogen; HARMINE - 7-methoxy-1-methyl-9H-pyrido (3,4-b) indole.
Usage: 25-750 mg harmine is ingested on an empty stomach. In its hydrochloride form harmine may be snuffed (20-200 mg). Absorbed poorly through stomach.
Effects: Harmine and related alkaloids are serotonin antagonists, hallucinogens, CNS stimulants, and reversible MAO inhibitors. Small doses (25-50 mg) act as mild and therapeutic cerebral stimulant, sometimes producing drowsy or dreamy state for 1-2 hours. Larger doses up to 750 mg may have hallucinogenic effects, the intensity of which varies widely with the individual. Doses of 25-250mg taken with LSD or psilocybin alter the quality of the experience of the latter. Telepathic experiences have been reported with this combination.
Contraindications: Harmine is a reversible MAO inhibitor. It should not be used with alcohol and certain foods and drugs. Large amounts may depress CNS. Since individual sensitivity varies this may occur with 250-750mg.
Notes on other harmala alkaloids:
Tobacco, Nicotiana rustica
Rustica is a delightful plant to grow. Rich in Native American history, a true heirloom tobacco with deadly high amounts of nicotine. Excellent pesticide. Used in tipi ceremonies by many tribes in a traditional peace pipe, always mixed with sweetgrass, mugwort and/or wild mint. Its pungent odor can be sensed many meters away and is both intoxicating and unpleasant.
Nicotiana rustica. Annual. Time from seed to bloom is about two to three months. Growth is slow at first as they develop deep roots very quickly, then the main stalk will grow fast and support huge, thick leaves on a short frame. Hardy once established. Mature plants tolerate drought, insects, heavy rain and frost.
This is the original, wild, native tobacco from which the now common and highly cultivated hybrid plant called N. tabacum was developed. Rustica grows only a few feet high and produces many clusters of yellow flowers which are pollinated by humming birds. Its leaves are dark green, thick, sticky, slightly oblong with small hairs, and about six to eight inches in diameter. The plant produces a noticeable odor that some may find unpleasant and others intoxicating. The first time I went to pick seeds at night, I inhaled the odor and began to hear ancient native drumming sounds, literally.
Nicotiana rustica, known in South America as Mapacho and in Vietnam as Thuoc Lao (thuốc lào), is a plant in the Solanaceae family. It is a very potent species of tobacco. The high concentration of nicotine in its leaves makes it useful for creating organic pesticides.
Traditional rustica Use
Some South American peoples have used a concentrated infusion of this heirloom tobacco to poison their hunting arrows. When powdered, the leaves can also be used to make a potent, nicotine-based insecticide. Rustica is considered toxic to ingest in any form. Those trying to smoke it will likely be rendered unconscious from nicotine poisoning. Native peoples mixed it with sweet grass and mint and other mellowing herbs and did not inhale deeply on the rare occasion of smoking a traditional "peace" pipe made of bloodstone.
Rustica is also used for entheogenic purposes by South American shamans. It contains up to ten times more nicotine than common North American varieties such as N. tabacum. Other reasons for its shamanic use are the comparatively high levels of MAOI beta-carbolines, including the Harmala alkaloids, harman and norharman. Most commonly, it is allowed to soak in water, and the water is then insufflated; it is also smoked in cigars and used as an enema and as an anthelmintic effective against tapeworm infections. In the southeastern part of Turkey, people use this herb and ashes of some trees to make a snuff called "Maraş Out." They use this by putting it under their lips like Swedish snus. Rustica is also a common admixture of Ayahuasca in some parts of the rainforest.
In Russia, N. rustica is called "makhorka" (махорка). It was smoked casually by the lower classes before common tobacco became widely available after WWII, and is still smoked by some peasants and farmers today.
Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%. Cigarette companies add nicotine to their product.
Start seeds in 4-inch pots. Once several sets of leaves are present, and all danger of frost is past, the young plants can be transferred to the garden. Direct sow also will work, however, young plants are tender and vulnerable to the elements.
Suitable for containers. Self seeding. High pollination and germination rates. Young plants are vulnerable to drought, wind, harsh sun and heavy rain. Although deep rooted even when young, they are tender at first. Direct sow or plant in peat pots to avoid transplant shock. Being in the Nightshade family, their needs are similar to tomatoes, and growing them requires similar conditions. Prefers full sun and deep watering that is not overhead. Survive mild frost and will bloom into winter until killed by hard freeze or drought.
Rustica seeds have a high but sporadic germination rate, just like most Nightshades. I once had a flat of tomatoes that sprouted. I pulled all the young plants out to go into pots and set the remains of the tray aside. When I accidentally hit it with the garden hose a week or two later, at least a dozen new tomatoes sprouted from the dead remains. I also had a six pack of peppers fail to sprout at all. I reused the potting soil in a new homemade batch, and two weeks later noticed all the peppers sprouting up all over in pots that were now growing other plants. Nearly all the seeds failed, but then weeks later, nearly all of them sprouted. Nightshades are really peculiar in this way. The genetics make the seeds sprout at different times to ensure the survival of the species, so be aware that seemingly dead seeds that are well watered and seem dead can come to life with one watering weeks after you have given up.
Carob Tree, Ceratonia Siliqua
Ancient food and aphrodisiac. Saint John the Baptist was thought to have subsisted on carob pods in lean times, as the inner seeds are made into locust bean gum and have been called locust beans forever. Hence, which locusts were the Baptist really eating? Pods are high in protein, sugars and carbohydrates.
The Carob Tree thrives in challenging environments with little or no care whatsoever. Frost and drought tolerant. Pretty round leaves with a noticeable reddish tint to its branches. Prefers a dry, mild Mediterranean climate such as Italy, Spain, California, etc., but is tolerant of other climates once established. Beautiful ornamental tree with long brown seed pods that develop from Spring flowers.
The pods of the Carob Tree contain galactomannon, a commercially valuable carbohydrate that is used as a thickener, emulsifier and stabilizer in many products. The seeds are extremely hard and durable.
Ceratonia siliqua, commonly known as the Carob tree or St John's bread, is a species of flowering evergreen shrub or tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is widely cultivated for its edible legumes, and as an ornamental tree in yards.
Some carob facts:
The hard, small inner seeds were once used as a unit of measure evolving into the carat weight system for gold and precious gem stones.
Safe for dogs as a chocolate substitute! Broken pieces are natural dog treats, and are nibbled on by birds and mammals alike. Each pod can contain up to 25% protein! (protein content varies from tree to tree, as do pods.) Carob pod pieces can be used in potpourris as a fixative and for their own intoxicating chocolate fragrance. The hard, inner seeds should be removed (not sure how they do it?!) before grinding if you intend to roast and grind the pods into homemade carob powder.
Sometimes the seeds shake inside the pods like a musical instrument. My adventurous son Shawn, who picked many of the pods with me while braving injury and insect bites sitting in the tree, actually liked the pod flavor. Sort of like an ancient version of a chocolate trail bar, with many one-carat trading seeds inside instead of trading cards. I can see Frodo and Samwise unwrapping some sacred carob pods as their last meal in the shadows of Mount Doom before destroying the One Ring...OK, I am rewriting carob history...
Carob seeds can be planted and grown into mature, beautiful trees in California, Texas and Florida. They prefer a warm Mediterranean climate with only mild frost in winter. Young trees are expensive to purchase. Drought resistant, frost resistant, pest resistant. Pretty round leaves with beautiful red limbs make this tree a popular landscape item. No pests really attack the trees, but many animals enjoy eating the nutritious pods both on and off the tree, in human terms, as dining in or as a take out meal that is biodegradable.
Grows to about 30-40 feet at maturity, evergreen, with a rounded branching system giving it a classic rounded tree look. You need an extension ladder to harvest pods and harvest must be timed to the right season. I also sell the seeds for planting. Seeds can be extracted from pods for planting as well. Carob powder is made from the hulls only.
The Ceratonia siliqua tree grows up to 10 meters (33 ft) tall. The crown is broad and semi-spherical, supported by a thick trunk with brown rough bark and sturdy branches. Leaves are 10 to 20 centimeters (3.9 to 7.9 in) long, alternate, pinnate, rounded, and may or may not have a terminal leaflet. It is frost-tolerant.
Most carob trees are dioecious. The trees blossom in autumn (September–October). The flowers are small and numerous, spirally arranged along the inflorescence axis in catkin-like racemes borne on spurs from old wood and even on the trunk (cauliflory); they are pollinated by both wind and insects. Male flowers produce a characteristic odor, resembling semen.
The fruit is a pod that can be elongated, compressed, straight or curved, and thickened at the sutures. The pods take a full year to develop and ripen. The ripe pods eventually fall to the ground and are eaten by various mammals, thereby dispersing the seed. Likewise, the carob powder purchased in Natural Food stores is actually the dried, ground (and often roasted) pod, and not the inner seeds found inside the pod.
The seeds of Ceratonia siliqua contain leucodelphinidin, a colorless chemical compound. It is native to the Mediterranean region.
The term "carat," the unit by which gem weight is measured, was derived from the ancient practice of weighing gold against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East. The system was eventually standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams, about the weight of one carob seed.
Subsistence on carob pods is mentioned in the Talmud: Berakhot reports that Rabbi Haninah subsisted on carob pods. It is also mentioned in the New Testament, in which Matthew 3:4 reports that John the Baptist subsisted on "locusts and wild honey"; the Greek word translated "locusts" likely refers to the hanging, swinging carob pods, rather than to jumping grasshoppers. Again, in Luke 15:16, when the Prodigal Son is in the field in spiritual and social poverty, he desires to eat the pods that he is feeding to the swine because he is suffering from starvation. The use of the carob during a famine is likely a result of the carob tree's resilience to the harsh climate and severe drought. During a famine, the swine were given carob pods so that they would not be a burden on the farmer's limited food resources.
Carob is typically dried or roasted, and is mildly sweet. In powdered, chip, or syrup form it is used as an ingredient in cakes and cookies, and is widely used around the world as a substitute for chocolate.
Carob does not contain theobromine, a toxic alkaloid found in chocolate which can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting in humans and can be fatal to dogs and cats. This is why carob is used to make safe chocolate-flavored treats for dogs.
Carob was eaten in Ancient Egypt. It was also a common sweetener and was used in the hieroglyph for "sweet" (nedjem). Dried carob fruit is traditionally eaten on the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat. Carob juice drinks are traditionally drunk during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Also, it was long believed to be an aphrodisiac.
In Cyprus, their carob syrup is known as Cyprus black gold, and is widely exported.
In Malta, a syrup (ġulepp tal-ħarrub) is also made from carob pods. A traditional sweet treat, eaten during Lent and on Good Friday, is also made from carob pods in Malta. However, carob pods were mainly used as animal fodder in the Maltese Islands, apart from times of famine or war when they formed part of the diet of many Maltese. Carob is a traditional Malta medicine for coughs and sore throat.
Carob pods were an important source of natural sugar before sugarcane and sugar beets became widely cultivated... and before the corn industry invented a drug called high fructose corn syrup which took over in America as a cheap, unnatural sweetener in almost all commercial food.
A Short History of
Papaver somniferum L.
NOTE: Opium poppy extract is illegal in many countries, but not all. Therefore, this internet information is intended for those countries where these traditional sacred plants are not currently persecuted.
The Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum, is an heirloom flower with a history as colorful and the varieties still bred by humans worldwide. In the USA, federal drug law specifically exempts opium poppy seed. However, poppy straw is singled out specifically as illegal under Federal Statute. The legal conundrum thus created is that you can own and sell poppy seed, and you can generally grow poppy flowers, but once the flowers turn into pods and suddenly develop opiate alkaloids, they become a Schedule 2 drug. Literally. Therefore, as with so many government laws, rules and regulations, it is technically illegal to grow your own bread seed. In a classic government catch-22, one can only get bread seed by growing alkaloid-rich pods!
The Opium Poppy contains opium as well as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. The name means, loosely, the “sleep-bringing poppy,” which refers to its narcotic properties. Remember the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz that put them all to sleep?
The seeds are important food items, and contain healthy oils that are used worldwide in the culinary arts. Opium or bread poppy seeds are used in breads, cakes and are common in Middle Eastern cooking.
The plant itself is also valuable for ornamental purposes; the large double blooms of the Opium Poppy produce excellent seed pods on three foot stems, perfect for dried flower arrangements. It is widely grown in ornamental gardens throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia and is also known as the common garden poppy,
Warnings/Cautions: Addictive! Parts of this plant are considered toxic or poisonous if ingested (meaning the pods are full of intense alkaloids such as opium and morphine). Opium is physically addictive and detrimental to health in the long run. It has important short term applications for human pain management, especially in all battlefield or emergency conditions. Medicinal use at home without a doctor is not wise nor recommended.
Other Details: This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and some species of birds.
Family: Papaveraceae (pa-pav-er-AY-see-ee)
Genus: Papaver (puh-PAY-ver)
Species: somniferum (som-NEE-fer-um)
AKA: Breadseed Poppy, Lettuce Leaf Poppy, Blue Seed Poppy, Bread seed
Seasons: Traditionally, fall. Grows in all four seasons in temperate zones. Dislikes heat.
Height: 18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
Spacing: 9-12 in. (22-30 cm)
Germination Time: 3 to 30 days
Days to Maturity: 30-90
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom Color: white, blue, purple, pink, red
Bloom Time: Mid Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall.
Water: Keep moist until sprouted. Stop water after flowers appear.
Soil Requirements:6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic), 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Propagation Methods: From seed; direct sow after last frost.
O.D. ANTIDOTE: Belladonna, coffee.
Opium poppies, Papaver somniferum, are frost tolerant and germinate in cool weather and cool soil. Poppy seeds like cooler temps, around 50- 65 degrees F for germination; they can be very slow if it is hot.
All varieties of papaver somniferum seeds germinate at different times. With some varieties you may see seedlings in as little as 3 days. Others can take up to a month. Do not give up on them if they are slow!
Poppies are seldom bothered by pests once established. Do not use any form of chemical pesticides or weed control products anywhere near your poppy plants.
The best solution is prevention. Space plants so that they have good air circulation. Do not over water once growing. Plant in soil with good drainage. Aphids may attack young plants in bud. Wash them off with a hard spray with the garden hose, or use a soap mixture.
In most areas of the country, once you plant a poppy you find it's numbers increasing from year to year via self-seeding. The seed is so fine that the slightest breeze can carry it from one area of the garden to another...and another.
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater. Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
Planting Opium Poppies:
Poppies can grow pretty much anywhere, even indoors. However, they do prefer to get a lot of sun in their lives, so outdoors is always best. If you’re planting in a garden, all you need to do is cast the seeds out and let them fall where they may. You can cover them with a small amount of soil, only about a quarter inch, to give them a bit of extra protection from the elements. Poppies don’t transplant well, so if you start them off in pots (indoors or out), then make sure to handle them very carefully when transplanting. Peat pots work well for starting out too, as you can plant the pot as well and it will biodegrade. This way you don’t run the risk of hurting the poppy’s sensitive root system.
There are two main outdoor planting times for poppies — early spring and late fall. If you are in a more temperate area, then they should survive the winter in a dormant state, even if covered with some snow.
The optimum germination temperature is around 60 F (15 C), although they will still germinate if the temperature is higher or lower. Don’t forget to keep the soil moist, but not over-watered or soggy.
Caring for Sprouts
Once your poppies begin to sprout, switch to bottom watering. The sprouts are very vulnerable to damping off and mold. The roots are extremely sensitive at this stage also, and a big waterfall from a watering-can could kill your plant on the spot. Try to water in the morning or the afternoon. Night-time watering can encourage fungus growth. Also, try to give your poppies as much sun as your situation will allow. If you pay close attention to your plants, and maybe experiment here and there with some fertilizers, you’ll most likely have an incredible looking poppy garden within a few months.
Ideally, you should try to give each plant as much room as you can. Roots should have at least a foot, preferably more, of soil depth. Plants should also be spaced a minimum of a foot apart for best results, and to prevent their root systems from intertwining. You don’t want them to have to compete too hard for nutrients, so planting them too close will likely cause underdeveloped plants.
After the plant is producing flowers but the leaves are turning yellow from lack of water, then water the plants. Every 2 weeks water deeply so when it comes time for harvest, the soil will be moist where the roots drink from. A poppy plant only grows its roots down a few inches, then the roots grow horizontally. This is also why spacing is crucial when planting. Always water 10” out from the stem because the roots grow away from the stem, not down. Keep the soil moist in a wide area around the plants.
Lighting and Photoperiod for Indoor Growing:
Only the pod portion of the plant can produce opium alkaloids. The skin of the poppy pod encloses the wall of the pod ovary. The ovary wall consists of an outer, middle, and inner layer. The plant’s latex (opium) is produced within the ovary wall and drains into the middle layer through a system of vessels and tubes within the pod. The cells of the middle layer secrete more than 95 percent of the opium when the pod is scored and harvested.
Excessive moisture or extremely arid conditions will adversely affect the poppy plant’s growth and reduce the alkaloid content. Poppy plants can become waterlogged and die after a heavy rainfall in poorly drained soil. Heavy rainfall in the second and third months of growth can leach alkaloids from the plant and spoil the opium harvest. Dull, rainy, or cloudy weather during this critical growth period may reduce both the quantity and the quality of the alkaloid content.
The opium poppy seed can be sown several ways: broadcast (tossed by hand); or fix-dropped by hand into shallow holes dug with a metal-tipped dibble stick. About one pound of opium poppy seed is needed to sow one acre of land. The seeds may be white, yellow, coffee-color, gray, black, or 50 shades of blue. Seed color is not always related to the color of the flower petals, but often is.
During the first two months, the opium poppies may be damaged or stunted by nature through the lack of adequate sunshine, excessive rainfall, insects, worms, hail storms, early frost, or trampling by animals. The third month of growth does not require as much care as the first two months.
Harvesting Bread Seed
Poppy pods are like little Seattle Space Needles with a restaurant full of seeds on top. But once the windows are opened, seeds begin jumping out of the openings, in great numbers. I collect seed daily once my poppies finish flowering. I check each pod by hand, looking carefully for the first tiny window to open, about the size of a pin head. These windows are found in a ring around the top edge of the pod, under the wings. They are on the sides. Once the first one opens, the rest will follow in short order and every slight breeze will knock a few seeds out in that direction, like salt from a salt shaker. It would take a hurricane to blow them all out in one storm, so they are naturally spread around for months by nature. Once the first window opens, I carefully clip the pod off of the plant and immediately put it upside down into a deep jar, such as a clean mayonnaise jar. You can hasten this process by simply cutting the pod in half and removing all the seeds at once. I like them to fall out naturally and then have whole pods for flower displays. The pods contain about 10% opium and morphine compounds, and are technically illegal in the US under Federal law. However, local florists and several internet sites sell them openly.
Overseas Harvest and Processing
The typical opium yield from a single pod varies greatly, ranging from 10 to 100 milligrams of opium per pod. The average yield per pod is about 80 milligrams. The dried opium weight yield per hectare of poppies ranges from eight to fifteen kilograms in traditional applications.
As the poppy farmers gather the opium, they will commonly tag the larger or more productive pods with colored string or yarn. These pods will later be cut, dried in the sun and their seeds re-used for the following year’s crop planting.
A typical opium poppy farmer household in Southeast Asia (Afghanistan) will collect three to nine kilograms of opium from a year’s harvest of a one-acre field. That opium will be dried, wrapped and stacked on a shelf by February or March. If the opium has been properly dried, it can be stored indefinitely. Excessive moisture and heat can cause the opium to deteriorate but, once dried, opium is relatively stable. In fact, as opium dries and becomes less pliable, its value increases due to the decrease in water weight per kilogram.
Raw opium sap contains more than 35 different alkaloids. The strongest of these is morphine, which accounts for about 10% of the total raw opium weight. Alkaloid extraction is a very simple process, requiring only ammonium chloride, lime and hot water.
Dried opium poppy stem and pods are referred to as “poppy straw." The dried plants are used by some opium addicts to make opium tea. Opium can be easily extracted directly from the pods, using ether, but this is illegal in the US.
Atropa Belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade, has been used for over two millennia as a medicine, cosmetic, poison and witch’s herb. Belladonna is a perennial, seed-bearing, branching herb growing to 5 feet tall, with 8-inch long leaves and a purplish stem. Used for centuries by witches in their flying formulas, by Venetian women in general and ladies of the evening in particular to dilate their eyes, and currently as a remedy for IBS and other intestinal disorders; this herb has also been used to poison entire armies in war. Satan is said to personally watch over this plant and his little “Devil’s cherries.”
Contains psychotropic alkaloids, including atropine. This plant is a medicine, hallucinogen and poison. Deaths usually occur by eating the ripe black berries, which taste dangerously delicious (I have eaten them myself).
Common name: Deadly Nightshade
AKA: Dwaleberry, Dwale, Dwayberry, Devil’s Herb, Murderer’s Berry, Witch’s Berry, Black Cherry, Belladone, Belle-Dame, Belle-Galante, Bouton Noir, Cerise du Diable, Cerise Enragée, Cerise d’Espagne, Divale, Grande Morelle, Indian Belladonna, Great Morel, Guigne de la Côte, Herbe à la Mort, Herbe du Diable, Morelle Furieuse, Suchi, Naughty Man’s Cherries, Sorcerer’s Cherry, Poison Black Cherries.
Plant Parts Used:
Primarily leaves, also root, ripe black berries.
Homeopathy, neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, renal and biliary colic, asthma, sciatica, colitis, diarrhea, diverticulitis, nausea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stomach upsets, excessive stomach acid, fever, headaches, migraines, scarlet fever, sore throat, whooping cough, vomiting, flu, common cold, coughs, nerve pain, menstrual cramps, arthritis, constipation, stress, inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, peptic ulcers, boils and abscesses, depression, excessive sweating, motion sickness, incontinence, muscle pains and spasms, bed wetting, Parkinson’s disease, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and sensitivity to light, touch or noise. Dries up unwanted mother’s milk. Antidote for chloroform, opium, mushroom and parathion poisoning. Relieves the discomfort and swelling of the skin associated with breast cancer radiotherapy.
Atropine, hyoscine, scopolamine, apoatropine, torpine, pseudotropine, hyoscyamine (root), flavone glycosides, coumarins scopoline and scopoletine, tannin, phytosterol.
Tropeine alkaloids including hyoscyamine, scopolamine and atropine. As anti-cholinergic deliriants, they block muscarinic receptors, which in turn excite dopaminergic neurons. They are readily absorbed, partially metabolized by the liver, but mostly eliminated in urine. The peripheral receptors are on the exocrine glands which affect sweating, salivation, and cardiac muscles.
Methods of Ingestion:
Drink tea, eat ripe berries, smoke dried leaves, ointment, homeopathic dilutions, tinctures.
Headache, urinary detention, flushed skin, rash, dry throat, nausea, fever, loss of balance, loss of voice, eye damage, brain damage, convulsions, asphyxiation, heart attack, death.
Deaths to children have been documented from ingesting the tasty black berries.
Only five ripe belladonna berries can kill a child, 10 to 30 can kill an adult. Root is most toxic. Leaf, root and berry juices can be absorbed through the skin. Herbalists should be cautious when harvesting or handling belladonna.
Atropine disrupts the parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to regulate vital non-volitional and subconscious activities such as sweating, breathing and heart rate.
Herbalists should keep the plant in a fenced or locked back yard and warn children of its danger.
Tannic acid, physostigmine, pilocarpine, jaborandi, amyl nitrite; morphine; activated charcoal; Milk of magnesia; Coffee or caffeine.
Body Sitter interventions:
1. IF taken internally, Induce vomiting: immediately drink an emetic, such as a large glass of warm water mixed with vinegar or mustard or salt.
2. Administer a colonic irrigation or coffee enema.
3. Administer antidotes listed above; keep patient hydrated and monitor body temperature.
4. Call 911 and report atropine poisoning.
5. Administer CPR if breathing stops.
Native Origin: Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, naturalized to the Americas.
Favorite Habitat: Sunny woodland or river bank, low altitude, Mediterranean climate, well-drained, alkaline soil.
Plant Spirit Message:
“I am a beautiful woman, like Aphrodite. Let me seduce you with my bottomless black eyes and come fly with me.”
Belladonna has a history for over two millennia of use as a medicine, cosmetic, poison and witch’s herb. Native to Europe, it belongs to the nightshade family which includes all tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, wolfberry, Datura, peppers and tobacco.
Belladonna is a perennial, seed-bearing branching herb growing to 5 feet tall, with 8-inch long ovate leaves and a purplish stem. The whole plant is of a light green color, except the flowers which are large and of a brownish purple, and the berries which are of the rich deep black of black cherries or black widow spiders. The root is thick fleshy and much branched the stem grows about two feet high and the leaves are oblong tapering to each end. The flowers are bell shaped larger than those of the harebell and placed singly in the bosom of the leaves. The flowers are bell-shaped, blue-purple or dull red, replaced by a black or dark purple half-inch berry. The border of the corolla is cut into five equal lobes and there are five stamens and a tapering pistil with two cells. The leaves in first-year plants are larger than those of older plants. The foliage is sensitive to cold and is a dark green color with pronounced veins on the undersides of the leaves.
From the Roman era through the Renaissance, Venetian woman commonly used belladonna to dilate their pupils in order to appear more attractive and sexually appealing to potential suitors or clients. For many centuries, Egyptian and Babylonian did the same. The name belladonna literally means “beautiful woman.” The name is also believed to have derived from an admonition in Italian and Greek meaning “do not betray a beautiful lady.” Its common name derives from its use in eye drops by women.
The generic name of the plant, Atropa, is derived from the Greek word Atropos, she of the Three Fates whose job was to cut the thread of life (a reference to the plant’s poisonous nature). It is also linked to the active alkaloid in the plant, Atropine.
Ancient legends claim that this plant is grown by the devil. Another legend is that the plant can take the form of a beautiful woman to entice victims to consume its poison. Belladonna is believed to be the plant that poisoned the army of Marcus Antonius in the Parthian wars as this quote from Plutarch infers: “Those who sought for pot herbs obtained few that they had been accustomed to eat and in tasting unknown herbs they found one which brought on madness and death. He that had eaten of it immediately lost all memory and knowledge, but at the same time would busy himself in turning and moving every stone he met with as if he was upon some very important pursuit.”
During Chaucer’s time in England, belladonna was known as dwale. The first recorded use of this plant was for cosmetic purposes rather than medicinal. In 1753, Linnaeus gave the first known botanical description of belladonna in his Species Plantarum.
Belladonna is used topically and internally for a variety of purposes in both folk and modern medicine due to its pain relieving and anti-spasmodic qualities, as well as its ability to dilate pupils. Some over-the-counter cold remedies use belladonna extract to clear mucous from nasal passages. Atropine is commonly used in optometry to dilate pupils for eye exams and to prevent spasms. It was once used in cosmetics as well to dilate pupils.
Throughout the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, where hundreds of thousands were put to death in Europe and America (usually by hanging in actuality, in lore by burning at the stake, but I recalled in therapy being buried alive in that incarnation), trial documents consistently speak of a witch’s secret “Flying ointment.” Old recipes still exist, and they tell how flying ointment was made from a blend of several herbal ingredients, each of which produced a particular physiological effect. Belladonna was mixed with aconite, mandrake, henbane and even opium poppy, among other herbs, producing a potent mix that would take users out of their bodies.
In 1658, Giovanni Battista Porta wrote that a potion made from henbane, mandrake, Datura and belladonna would make a person “believe himself turned into a Goose, and would eat Grass, and beat the Ground with his Teeth, like a Goose: now and then sing, and endeavor to clap his Wings.”
Belladonna and its Solanaceae cousins in the Solanum genus (the common nightshades) all grow wild throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. A hardy perennial, it is a standard feature in any witch’s garden, preferring sun and alkaline soil.
Soil Requirements: Moist, alkaline, well-drained (add lime and sand).
Soil pH: Alkaline. Prefers 7.5 (mildly alkaline) to over 9.1 (very alkaline).
Sun: Prefers full sun, but not heat. Tolerates half shade.
Water: Keep moist.
Fertilization: Fertilize weekly once established.
Planting Time: All four seasons.
Spacing: 24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
Height: 18 in. (45 cm) up to 6 ft. (1.8 m)
Hardiness: Frost hardy. Grows back in Spring in harsh winter climates.
Seed Germination time: Three days to eight weeks. Intermittent germinator.
Seed Germination Methods: Direct sow, heated flats.
Seed Pollination: Insects: beetles, moths, bees.
Plant Propagation Methods: Seed, cuttings, root ball split.
Bloom time: Mid summer to late fall.
Pests: Snails; aphids; white flies.
USDA Temperature Zones: 7 to 10.
Belladonna grows from a thick branching root to a height of 50-150cm. The stem is bluntly angular and branches freely. The large pointed oval leaves grow in pairs; they are dark green ion the upper surface and a paler green on the underside. Single bell-shaped flowers, with crowns about 2cm in length, grow in the leaf axils; their color is a brownish-purple. In late summer, shiny black berries develop.
Belladonna is hardy throughout much of North America and Europe, dying back in cold winters and rising from the root ball in spring. It prefers a well-drained, well-limed soil in full sun or part shade. The soil should be kept moist at all times. Plants exposed to too much hot sun will be stunted. In hot sunny areas it may be grown between rows of beans or corn to shade it from hot afternoon sun.
Germination: Seeds germinate slowly and irregularly due to germination inhibitors in the seeds that are designed to make sure that all the seeds do not germinate at once, just in case unfavorable conditions arise after sprouting. Seeds should be cold stratified for four weeks in the refrigerator before planting. Provide good moisture during germination, burying the seed just under the surface of the soil. Keep the soil warm throughout germination.
Seed Tray Propagation: Belladonna is most frequently propagated by seed, sown in flats in early March. Because the seeds take 4-8 weeks to germinate, they should be started early and timed about two months before the last frost in your area. When the seedlings are an inch or so high they may be set out 18 inches apart. The seedlings should be well watered just after transplanting, and shaded for several days. First-year plants will grow only 1.5 feet high. The plants should be thinned to 2.5 to 3 feet apart at the approach of winter, or overcrowding will occur the second year. Belladonna may also be propagated by cuttings of the green branch tips.
1. Plant in a location that has good drainage and long hours of sunlight.
2. Add sand to the planting area and prepare at least a foot deep.
3. Plant the seeds and tap into the ground or cover with a fine layer of sand.
4. Water the location when the soils starts to dry out. Don’t let it dry out completely.
5. It can almost take up to two months for the seedlings to emerge from the soil.
Belladonna will flower from June through December, when some of the leaves and tops may be collected.
In June of the second year the plants may be cut to one inch above the ground when they are in flower. In good years a second crop will be ready for harvesting in September. The roots may be harvested in the autumn of the fourth year, and new plants set in their places.
The parts harvested should be dried quickly in the sun. Wilted or discolored leaves may be discarded, as they contain only small amounts of alkaloids.
Traditional Uses Medicine. Poison. Used as a visionary or ritual herb. Main ingredient in the traditional and effective witch’s Flying Formula. The witch would travel out of the physical body.
Locally applied, it reduces irritability and pain, and is used as a lotion, plaster or liniment in cases of neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, arthritis, muscle pain and sciatica. Useful for a wide variety of intestinal disorders. Alleviates fevers, migraines and headaches; traditionally used for whooping cough, Parkinson’s disease and Scarlet fever. Belladonna’s drying effect is useful for halting unwanted mother’s milk, incontinence and excessive night time urination. Calms the nervous system and its related conditions.
A combination of belladonna alkaloids and Phenobarbital is currently a prescription medicine taken to relieve cramping and spasms of the intestines during an IBS attack. Noted as antidote for chloroform, opium, Amanita mushroom and parathion poisoning. Results of a clinical trial performed at the National Cancer Institute of Milan documented that homeopathic belladonna remedies are useful in relieving the discomfort and swelling of the skin after breast cancer radiotherapy.
Belladonna has hallucinogenic qualities. Basically, small amounts of belladonna are medicinal, medium amounts are psychotropic, and large amounts are fatal. Without a chemical analysis of the exact amount of atropine in a particular specimen, homemade concoctions can vary considerably in alkaloid content and potency, rendering them dangerously experimental.
If you use belladonna for its psychoactive effects, smoking the leaves in a bong or pipe is the safest and mildest way to try the plant for the first time. Since the psychotropic effects are not immediate, stagger your intake over time.
Current Belladonna Usage
Homeopathy, medications for IBS including one with Phenobarbital and alkaloids of belladonna together. Medically, it is found in some sleeping pills to sedate, in cold medications to dry mucous membrane, in some asthma drugs where it is very effective, for dilating pupils in Optometry, is an antidote for opium poisoning, and is used in surgery as a muscle relaxant before an anesthetic is given.
Poisonous! Small amounts can be fatal, or cause eye and brain damage!
Belladonna berries are very shiny and tasty and therefore attractive to children who may confuse them with blueberries. One berry could be fatal to a very small child. The plant should never be situated where children have access to the ripe berries, preferably behind a locked gate. The author ate one with no ill effect and enjoyed the flavor, a personal testament to its allure.
Warning: Never consume belladonna if you have glaucoma!
Recipes and Dosage
When used in native areas, the individual belladonna dosages range from 30-120mg for the root and from 30-200mg for the crushed and dried leaves, though it must be stressed that the upper ranges are not to be regarded as safe! The plant may be consumed orally or smoked.
Warning: Human error or random high atropine content can make home remedies fatal!
To make a belladonna infusion, add just one teaspoon of chopped leaf to one pint of water and steep in boiling water for five minutes. Let cool and refrigerate. Consume one teaspoon of the infusion twice a day. If no ill effects are noted, the dosage may be doubled. Too much can be fatal.
To make a belladonna paste, soak the plant leaves in isopropyl alcohol, vodka or water for two days and then evaporate the liquid with gentle heat. The concoction evaporates into a gummy resin, which is eaten in minute doses. Dosage is only one fifth of a gram (0.2 grams). Too much can be fatal.
Ancient Flying Formulas included aconitum, belladonna, calamus root, Potentilla simplex, Artemisia absinthium, mandrake, poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), hellebore and henbane. Other intoxicants in the formulas include Datura, hashish (Cannabis indica) and/or opium poppy juice (Papaver somniferum). The herbs are added to the separated and cooked fat of a freshly killed duck, and made into a salve or ointment.
Since Atropine is absorbable through normal, healthy skin, rubbing ointments made from atropine-containing Solanaceous plants would be an effective way to become intoxicated. Using a seventeenth-century original formula, folklorist Will-Erich Peuckert of Germany cooked up an ointment made from belladonna, henbane and Datura. He rubbed it on his forehead and armpits, asking his colleagues to do likewise. They all fell into a 24-hour slumber or coma, later reporting:
“We had wild dreams. Faces danced before my eyes which were at first terrible. Then I suddenly had the sensation of flying for miles through the air. The flight was repeatedly interrupted by great falls. Finally, in the last phase, an image of an orgiastic feast with sensual excess.”
Often confused with Solanum dulcamara or S. nigrum (woody or common nightshade), which look very similar. The Solanum include these similar species:
S. carolinense: Horse Nettle; Apple of Sodom
S. citrullifolium: Melon-leaf Nightshade
S. dulcamara: Woody or Climbing Nightshade
S. nigrum: Black or Common Nightshade
S. physalifolium: Green or Hairy Nightshade
A. belladonna: Shiny black berries, purple flowers.
S. carolinense: Small orange berries.
S. citrullifolium: Fruit is enclosed in a prickly shell.
S. dulcamera: Red berries, purple flowers. Perennial climber.
S. nigrum: Black berries, white flowers. Small bushy plant growing 1-2 feet tall.
S. sarrachoides: Green berries, white flowers. Small plant growing 1-2 feet tall with hairy foliage that feels sticky to the touch.
Category: Annual, biennial.
Native Origin: Europe and Asia; now into North America.
Favorite Habitat: Sunny meadow with loam soil or woody edge-lands.
Soil Requirements: Prefers nitrogen-rich, moist, well drained soil.
Soil mix: Composted manure/peat moss/sand/ perlite mix.
Sun: Full sun.
Water: Weekly watering. Not drought tolerant.
Fertilization:General fertilizer when flowering.
Planting Time: Spring through summer, after last frost.
Spacing: Six inches to one foot.
Pruning: Not applicable
Height: 12-18 inches
Hardiness: Not frost hardy.
Seed Germination time: 3-15 days.
Seed Germination Methods: Flats: plant seeds 1mm deep under peat moss and perlite.
Seed Pollination: Wind, bees.
Plant Propagation Methods: Seed.
Harvest: Matures at 90 days. Harvest leaves in Summer or Fall after flowering.
Bloom time: Summer to fall.
Pests: None noted.
USDA Temperature Zones: pending
Plant Spirit Message:
“I am a pretty girl, but be careful.”
Hyoscyamus niger is an annual or biennial herb growing up to one yard high that produces veined yellow flowers and large quantities of seeds. The flowers grow one after the other on single stalks arching upwards.
All parts of the plant, including the seeds, contain scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine, and like many Nightshades, can be hallucinogenic as well as deadly poisonous.
Henbane, also known as stinking nightshade or black henbane, is a plant of the family Solanaceae that originated in Eurasia; now globally distributed.
Henbane was historically used in combination with other plants, such as mandrake, deadly nightshade (belladonna), and the Daturas as an anesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic brews." These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and Soul travel. Its usage was originally in continental Europe, Asia and the Arab world, though it did spread to England in the Middle Ages. The use of henbane by the ancient Greeks was documented by Pliny. The plant, recorded as Herba Apollinaris, was used to yield oracles by the priestesses of Apollo. Henbane was found in a Neolithic funerary site
The name henbane dates at least to A.D. 1265
The botanist Linnaeus gave this plant its Latin name in the 1753, basing it on its former name of "dioskyamos," or God's bean. The henne origin of henbane refers to death and is tied to the name of the German god, Henne. Henne bean.
In Greek mythology, the dead who wander the shores of the River Styx are crowned with henbane. The Oracle of Delphi was said to breathe in the smoke in order to divine the future. Henbane was used ritually in ancient Scotland. Henbane is associated with beer in the Alps, where it still carries the name Bilsenkraut, or beer lettuce. In that locale, a goddess name Bil is also known as the Fairy of Henbane. In the Middle Ages, Agrippa recognized henbane's connection to the dead by including it in an incense designed to raise spirits. This magick herb is still used to consecrate ritual vessels and is an ingredient in incense for bringing rain. Henbane is still an ingredient in incense burned as a part of shape-shifting work.
Like Datura and other members of the Nightshade family, Henbane contains atropine. While toxic, check out the movie "The Rock" about terrorists with deadly nerve gas. The nerve gas antidote is pure atropine, injected into the heart of the victim to save his life. Atropine has medicinal value, and it can also kill you.
Atropine is one of the ingredients in the classic and very secret Witch's Flying Formulas. The traditional Flying Ointment was a combination of belladonna, henbane, Datura, mandrake, papaver poppy, etc., all carefully cooked in duck fat. Once done, a small amount was then rubbed onto a stick which was held between the labia or genitals for easier absorption. Not quite flying on a broomstick, but close enough to launch a legend...
Atropine intoxication typically produces a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy (delirium, as contrasted to hallucinations); hyperthermia; tachycardia; bizarre behavior; and severe mydriasis with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Effects can last for over a week. Hyper- or hypothermia can kill overnight. Delirium will isolate you completely from the reality of everyone else.
FAMILY: Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
SPECIES: Blumei, etc.
COMMON NAMES: Buntblatt, Buntnessel, Coleus Scutellaires, El Ahijado, El Nene, Flame Nettle, Manto de la Virgen, Painted Nettle, Patharcheer.
This annual plant is well known amongst horticulturists and amateur gardeners alike. Coleus is prized as an easy-to-grow houseplant and a hardy outdoor ornamental; it produces many colorful kaleidoscopic leaves. Coleus Blumei can grow up three feet (1 meter) tall, and about one foot across. The leaves are oval shaped with rounded toothed edges; the leaves are brightly colored with green edges and blood-red veins in the center as well as catchy splotches of dark red, maroon, and brown. The flowers are very small and grow along a central stem, ranging from light mauve to violet in color. Coleus Blumei first originated in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, but was transplanted into the tropical regions of Mexico and has since become well known amongst the Mazatec Indians for its psychoactive properties.
Coleus was first studied by Gordon Wasson while he was searching Southern Mexico for the mythical psychoactive plant used by the Aztecs, Pipiltzintzintli. During Wasson’s expedition through the Sierra Madre region, not only did he discover the Mazatec Indians ritual use of Salvia Divinorum as a hallucinogen, but he also learned of their use of Coleus Blumei.
Very little is currently known about the active principle alkaloids in Coleus Blumei. The plant contains Diterpene alkaloids and one theory is that when Detripenes are dried and exposed to high temperatures its structure changes to resemble the active alkaloids present in Salvia Divinorum.
TRADITIONAL USE: In traditional Mazatec communities, Coleus Blumei is considered ‘the male’ (El Ahijado) and Salvia Divinorum is considered ‘the female’ (La Hembra).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: The Mazatec natives usually consume coleus either by chewing fresh leaf quid or smoking dried leaf. Traditionally, eight to 12 small leaves are picked from the plant, rolled into a "quid" and chewed; the juices are swallowed and after 15 to 20 minutes the used quid is discarded and exchanged for fresh leaves. In other Mazatec communities the leaves and flowers are gathered and dried, then are crushed and mixed with tobacco or Tagetes lucida (Mexican Tarragon) to be smoked.
MEDICINAL USES: Coleus blumei has been used to treat many different ailments. Most commonly, the Mazatec used this herb to treat stomach pains, digestive problems, dysentery, and even elephantiasis. In other places, the plant was used to treat headaches, cure ulcers and as a contraceptive for women.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Many people report that small doses of coleus are very similar to small doses of Salvia Divinorum, this is certainly a powerful Shamanic traveling plant and needs to be studied more carefully. Similar to many other plants like Salvia Divinorum and Cannabis Sativa, the effects of Coleus Blumei are not usually felt after the first trial, rather it take several attempts and knowledge of the plant to fully feel its inebriating effects. However, there is still much debate as to the efficacy and potentiality of Coleus Blumei, there are many reports from reputable ethno-botanists and amateur users suggesting that they have experienced little to no effects with this plant.
Prepare a flat of potting soil. Choose a fine, fluffy, soil-less mix rather than the dense stuff that is sometimes sold as potting soil. Air spaces encourage good root development.
Soak the flat well before sowing the seeds—it should be damp but not sopping wet. Always water with lukewarm water; coleus doesn't like cold soil. Be sure to water before planting seeds so they don't float off into the corners.
Gently press the seeds by hand, but don't bury them under more soil. Coleus seeds need light to germinate, they must be planted on top of the soil.
The flat can be covered with any material that will let light in and retain moisture; a clean sheet of glass or acrylic, a clear plastic bag, or a piece of transparent plastic wrap. Don't envelop the flat tightly, though, because lack of air circulation may encourage damping-off disease or the development of molds.
Place the flat in a spot where light can reach it—but not in direct sunlight, or the seeds will cook. Keep it warm (about 70 degrees) with a pilot light, a hot-water heater, or a soil-heating cable. A tiny magic carpet of colored seedlings should appear in a week.
As soon as the first sprouts appear, move the flat to a place where it will receive day-long light. When the seedlings develop their first true leaves, transplant them into small individual pots or another flat, spacing them two inches (5 cm) apart.
At this point in their development, windowsill or greenhouse light will do.
When the plants are about 6-8" high, pinch out the tip of the stem to encourage the plants to form bushy side branches. Then pinch back the branch tips when they reach a length of 6-8".