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Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Index of Herbal Medicines, Supplements and Therapies
The decision to use products containing or claiming to contain belladonna should be carefully considered.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)
Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain belladonna. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with a pharmacist or health care professional before starting.
Scientists have studied belladonna for the following health problems:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Studies suggest belladonna may be helpful for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. The evidence is limited, however, and more studies are needed to determine the exact benefit of belladonna. Because of the possible adverse effects and toxicity caused by belladonna, this herb should be used under the supervision of a qualified health care professional.
Belladonna has been studied for several other uses, including the prevention of airway obstruction (difficulty breathing) during sleep and the treatment of autonomic nervous system disturbance, headache, ear infection, excessive sweating, premenstrual syndrome and radiation dermatitis. Some of these have been researched using very weak, diluted (homeopathic) amounts of belladonna, whereas others have used stronger doses. None of these uses has been proven safe or effective, and more studies are needed. Early evidence suggests that belladonna is not effective for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
Belladonna has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care professional before using belladonna for any unproven use.
| Abnormal menstrual bleeding|
| Hyperkinesis (excessive motor function)|
Mydriasis (dilation of the pupils)
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
Peptic ulcer disease
Short bowel syndrome
People with allergies to plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, such as bell peppers, potatoes and eggplants, are more likely to have allergic reactions to belladonna. People who have had allergic reactions to anticholinergic drugs are also more likely to be allergic to belladonna. There is one published report of allergic contact dermatitis (skin irritation) occurring when a belladonna "plaster" was placed on the skin.
Side effects from belladonna are relatively common. The most common side effects include dry mouth, urinary retention, flushing, fever, dilated pupils, constipation and confusion. These anticholinergic effects (caused by the blocking of cholinergic nerve impulses) may occur to various degrees at recommended doses. With high doses of belladonna, these effects can be severe and may result in toxicity or death.
There are reports that belladonna may cause decreased perspiration, vomiting, decreased flow of breast milk, headache, excitement, agitation, dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, unsteadiness, abdominal distention, reduced saliva, muscle tremor, rigidity, leg cramps, blurred vision, sensitivity to sunlight, slurred or meaningless speech, increased action of reflexes, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, skin rash, dry skin, hives, rapid breathing, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, respiratory arrest, convulsions and coma.
A case report exists of a previously healthy, postmenopausal woman who developed anticonvulsant hypersensitivity syndrome while taking Bellamine S (belladonna alkaloids, ergotamine, phenobarbital) for hot flashes. Ingestion of food contaminated with Atropa belladonna (botulism) leading to fatal muscle paralysis has been reported.
There are numerous reported cases of poisoning in children and in the elderly. For this reason, belladonna is not recommended for use in either age group. Anyone with a health condition should consult a health care professional before taking products containing belladonna. Examples of such health conditions include heart disease; high blood pressure; fever; disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract or prostate; glaucoma; Down's syndrome; Sjφgren's syndrome; decreased saliva secretion; decreased tear production; and myasthenia gravis.
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
Belladonna cannot be recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding. There are reports that belladonna may increase the risk of malformations in the developing fetus. Evidence shows belladonna is excreted into breast milk, thereby increasing the risk of toxicity to the feeding infant.
Interactions with drugs, supplements and other herbs have not been thoroughly studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with a health care professional or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.
Interactions With Drugs
Prescription drugs that act as anticholinergics (meaning that they block the impulses of the cholinergic nerves) may have an additive effect if taken with belladonna. The result may be an excessive decrease in the activity of these nerves, which could lead to serious side effects and toxicity. Examples of anticholinergic drugs include amantadine, antihistamines, phenothiazines, quinidine, tricyclic antidepressants (such as imipramine, amitriptyline and nortriptyline) and zotepine.
Belladonna may interact with drugs such as cisapride by blocking their effects on intestinal contractions. Belladonna may also interact with drugs such as procainamide, which could lead to irregular heartbeats. Belladonna may slow down the transit time of drugs through the stomach and intestines and may affect the absorption of certain drugs taken by mouth. If you are taking prescription drugs, check with a health care professional or pharmacist before taking belladonna. Belladonna may also interact with alcohol, alkaloids, atropine, ergot derivatives, hormonal agents, drugs that increase sun sensitivity, drugs cleared by the kidneys, scopolamine and tacrine (Cognex®).
Interactions With Herbs And Dietary Supplements
Herbs and dietary supplements that act as anticholinergics (meaning they block the impulses of cholinergic nerves) may have an additive effect if taken with belladonna. The result may be an excessive decrease in the activity of these nerves, which could lead to serious side effects and toxicity. Belladonna may also slow down the transit time of certain herbs and supplements through the stomach and the intestines and may affect the absorption of those taken by mouth. If you are taking any herbs or supplements orally, check with a health care professional or pharmacist before taking belladonna. Belladonna may also interact with alcohol, alkaloids, ergot derivatives, hormonal agents, herbs and supplements that increase sun sensitivity or are cleared by the kidneys.
The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand. Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may not be effective. Appropriate dosing should be discussed with a health care professional before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously, because scientific information is limited in these areas.
For Treatment Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Studies in the 1960s and 1970s tested several doses of belladonna for irritable bowel syndrome. A studied dose is 10 milligrams of hyoscine butylbromide four times per day by mouth. Combination products containing 0.25 milligrams of belladonna (levorotatory alkaloids) and 50 milligrams of phenobarbital taken once per day by mouth have also been studied. Higher doses have been tested, but they cannot be recommended because toxicity occurred.
Traditional doses have included 50 milligrams to 100 milligrams of belladonna leaf powder, with a maximum daily dose of 600 milligrams (equivalent to 1.8 milligrams of total alkaloids calculated as hyoscyamine); 50 milligrams of belladonna root, with a maximum daily dose of 300 milligrams (equivalent to 1.5 milligrams of total alkaloids calculated as hyoscyamine); or 10 milligrams of belladonna extract, with a maximum daily dose of 150 milligrams (equivalent to 2.2 milligrams of total alkaloids calculated as hyoscyamine). Side effects or toxicity may occur at these doses.
Very dilute (homeopathic) preparations have also been used for numerous conditions; discuss this type of dosing with a health care professional or pharmacist.
Children (Younger Than 18)
The dosing and safety of belladonna have not been studied thoroughly in children. Use of belladonna is not recommended in this age group because of numerous reports of toxicity. Very dilute (homeopathic) preparations have been used in children; discuss this type of dosing with a health care professional or pharmacist.
Although belladonna has been suggested for many conditions, the best evidence supports its use for irritable bowel syndrome. Belladonna has not been proven safe and effective for the treatment of any other health condition. Belladonna should be avoided in pregnant or breast-feeding women, and it should be used with caution in individuals with heart disease; high blood pressure; fever; disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract or prostate; glaucoma; Down's syndrome; Sjφgren's syndrome; decreased saliva secretion; decreased tear production; or myasthenia gravis. People taking prescription drugs, herbs or dietary supplements with anticholinergic effects should consult a health care professional and pharmacist before taking products containing belladonna. Consult a health care professional immediately if you experience side effects.
The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.
- Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research
Selected Scientific Studies: Belladonna
Natural Standard has reviewed all of the currently available medical literature to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.
Some of the more recent studies are listed below:
- Balzarini A, Felisi E, Martini A, et al. Efficacy of homeopathic treatment of skin reactions during radiotherapy for breast cancer: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial. Br Homeopath J 2000;89(1):8-12.
- Brien S. Attitudes about complementary and alternative medicine did not predict outcome in a homeopathic proving trial. J Altern Complement Med 2004;10(3):503-505.
- Brien S, Lewith G, Bryant T. Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2003;56(5):562-568.
- Brien S, Prescott P, Owen D, Lewith G. How do homeopaths make decisions? An exploratory study of inter-rater reliability and intuition in the decision making process. Homeopath 2004;93(3):125-131.
- Caksen H, Odabas D, Akbayram S, et al. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) intoxication: an analysis of 49 children. Hum Exp Toxicol 2003;Dec, 22(12):665-668.
- Duncan G, Collison DJ. Role of the non-neuronal cholinergic system in the eye: a review. Life Sci 2003;Mar 28, 72(18-19):2013-2019. Review.
- Erbguth FJ. Historical notes of botulism, Clostridium botulinum, botulinum toxin, and the idea of the therapeutic use of the toxin. Mov Disord 2004; Mar 19, Suppl 8:2-6.
- Joshi P, Wicks AC, Munshi SK. Recurrent autumnal psychosis. Postgrad Med J 2003;Apr, 79(930):239-240.
- Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Chief Editors: Ulbricht C, Basch E, Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference - Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews, USA: Elsevier/Mosby, 2005.
- Shanafelt TD, Barton DL, Adjei AA, Loprinzi CL. Pathophysiology and treatment of hot flashes. Mayo Clin Proc 2002;Nov, 77(11):1207-1218. Review.
- Turner RB, Kim CC, Streams BN, et al. Anticonvulsant hypersensitivity syndrome associated with Bellamine S, a therapy for menopausal symptoms. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;May, 50(5 Suppl):86-89.
- Tsiskarishvili NV, Tsiskarishvili TsI. Colorimetric determination of eccrine sudoriferous glands functional condition in case of hyperhidrosis and their correction by belladonna Georgian Med News. 2006 Nov;(140):47-50.
- Walach H, Koster H, Hennig T, et al. The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind experiment. J Psychosom Res 2001;50(3):155-160.
Last updated September 03, 2008
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