Datura stramonium, known by the common names Jimson weed or Devil's snare, is a plant in the nightshade family. It is believed to have originated in Mexico, but has now become naturalized in many other regions. Other common names for D. stramonium include thornapple and moon flower, and it has the Spanish name Toloache. Other names for the plant include hell's bells, devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, and devil’s cucumber.
Datura has been used in traditional medicine to relieve asthma symptoms and as an analgesic during surgery or bonesetting. It is also a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, which is used spiritually for the intense visions it produces. However, the tropane alkaloids responsible for both the medicinal and hallucinogenic properties are fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage, and careless use often results in hospitalizations and deaths.
The root is long, thick, fibrous and white. The stem is stout, erect, leafy, smooth, and pale yellow-green. The stem forks off repeatedly into branches, and each fork forms a leaf and a single, erect flower.
The leaves are about 3 to 8 in (8–20 cm) long, smooth, toothed, soft, and irregularly undulated. The upper surface of the leaves is a darker green, and the bottom is a light green. The leaves have a bitter and nauseating taste, which is imparted to extracts of the herb, and remains even after the leaves have been dried.
Datura stramonium generally flowers throughout the summer. The fragrant flowers are trumpet-shaped, white to creamy or violet, and 2 1⁄2 to 3 1⁄2 in (6–9 cm) long, and grow on short stems from either the axils of the leaves or the places where the branches fork. The calyx is long and tubular, swollen at the bottom, and sharply angled, surmounted by five sharp teeth. The corolla, which is folded and only partially open, is white, funnel-shaped, and has prominent ribs. The flowers open at night, emitting a pleasant fragrance, and are fed upon by nocturnal moths.
Range and habitat
Datura stramonium is native to North America, but was spread to the Old World early. It was scientifically described and named by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, although it had been described a century earlier by herbalists, such as Nicholas Culpeper. Today, it grows wild in all the world's warm and moderate regions, where it is found along roadsides and at dung-rich livestock enclosures. In Europe, it is found as a weed on wastelands and in garbage dumps.
The seed is thought to be carried by birds and spread in their droppings. Its seeds can lie dormant underground for years and germinate when the soil is disturbed. People who discover it growing in their gardens, and are worried about its toxicity, have been advised to dig it up or have it otherwise removed.
All parts of Datura plants contain dangerous levels of the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, which are classified as deliriants, or anticholinergics. The risk of fatal overdose is high among uninformed users, and many hospitalizations occur amongst recreational users who ingest the plant for its psychoactive effects.
The amount of toxins varies widely from plant to plant. As much as a 5:1 variation can be found between plants, and a given plant's toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions. Additionally, within a given datura plant, toxin concentration varies by part and even from leaf to leaf. When the plant is younger, the ratio of scopolamine to atropine is about 3:1; after flowering, this ratio is reversed, with the amount of scopolamine continuing to decrease as the plant gets older. This variation makes Datura exceptionally hazardous as a drug. In traditional cultures, a great deal of experience with and detailed knowledge of Datura was critical to minimize harm. An individual datura seed contains about 0.1 mg of atropine, and the approximate fatal dose for adult humans is >10 mg atropine or >2–4 mg scopolamine.
Datura intoxication typically produces delirium (as contrasted to hallucination), hyperthermia, tachycardia, bizarre behavior, and severe mydriasis with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect. The onset of symptoms generally occurs around 30 to 60 minutes after ingesting the herb. These symptoms generally last from 24 to 48 hours, but have been reported in some cases to last as long as two weeks.
Use in traditional medicine
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India, datura has long been used for asthma symptoms. The active agent is atropine. The leaves are generally smoked either in a cigarette or a pipe. During the late 18th century, James Anderson, the English Physician General of the East India Company, learned of the practice and popularized it in Europe.
The ancient inhabitants of what is today central and southern California used to ingest the small black seeds of datura to "commune with deities through visions". Across the Americas, other indigenous peoples such as the Algonquin, Navajo, Cherokee, Marie Galente, and Luiseño also used this plant in sacred ceremonies for its hallucinogenic properties. In Ethiopia, some students and debtrawoch (lay priests), use D. stramonium to "open the mind" to be more receptive to learning, and creative and imaginative thinking.
In his book, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis identified D. stramonium, called "zombi (sic) cucumber" in Haiti, as a central ingredient of the concoction vodou priests use to create zombies.
Datura prefers rich, calcareous soil. Adding nitrogen fertilizer to the soil will increase the concentration of alkaloids present in the plant. Datura can be grown from seed, which is sown with several feet between plants. Datura is sensitive to frost, so should be sheltered during cold weather. The plant is harvested when the fruits are ripe, but still green. To harvest, the entire plant is cut down, the leaves are stripped from the plant, and everything is left to dry. When the fruits begin to burst open, the seeds are harvested. A single intensively planted acre can produce 1,000 to 1,500 pounds (1,100–1,700 kg/ha) of leaf and 700 pounds (780 kg/ha) of seed.
In the United States, the plant is called jimson weed, or more rarely Jamestown weed; it got this name from the town of Jamestown, Virginia, where British soldiers consumed it while attempting to suppress Bacon's Rebellion. They spent 11 days in altered mental states:
The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call'd) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather'd very young for a boil'd salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate 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 [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.
In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves — though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. 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 themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.
– The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705
- The Plant List, Datura stramonium L.
- Flora of China, 曼陀罗 man tuo luo Datura stramonium Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 179. 1753.
- "Datura stramonium information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-02-05.
- Biota of North America Program, 2014 county distribution map
- Atlas of Living Australia, Datura stramonium L., Common Thornapple
- "Jimsonweed". University of Texas El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "Detailed Information: Jimsonweed". University of Texas El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "Thorn-apple, Datura stramonium - Flowers - NatureGate". luontoportti.com.
- Stace, Clive (1997). New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. p. 532. ISBN 0-521-65315-0.
- Henkel, Alice (1911). "Jimson weed". American Medicinal Leaves and Herbs. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 30.
- Grieve, Maud (1971). A Modern Herbal: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs, & Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses, Volume 2. Dover Publications. p. 804. ISBN 9780486227993.
- Grieve, Maud (1971). A Modern Herbal: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs, & Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses, Volume 2. Dover Publications. p. 805. ISBN 9780486227993.
- Culpeper, Nicholas (n.d.; 20th century edition of 1653 publication), Culpeper's Complete Herbal, Slough: W Foulsham & Co Ltd, pp. 368–369, ISBN 0-572-00203-3
- Preissel, Ulrike & Hans-Georg Preissel (2002). Brugmansia and Datura: Angel's Trumpets and Thorn Apples. Firefly Books. pp. 124–125. ISBN 1-55209-598-3. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Preissel" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Veblen, K.E. (2012). "Savanna glade hotspots: Plant community development and synergy with large herbivores". Journal of Arid Environments 78: 119–127. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.10.016.
- Oudhia P., Tripathi R.S.(1998).Allelopathic potential of Datura stramonium L.. Crop. Res. 16 (1) : 37-40.
- Mail Online, Pensioner finds deadly tropical plant made famous in Harry Potter book in her back garden 3:24 PM on 24 August 2009.
- AJ Giannini,Drugs of Abuse--Second Edition. Los Angeles, Practice Management Information Corporation, pp.48-51. ISBN 1-57066-053-0.
- Nellis, David W. (1997). Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Pineapple Press. p. 237. ISBN 9781561641116.
- Arnett AM (December 1995). "Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium) poisoning". Clinical Toxicology Review 18 (3).
- Freye, Enno (21 September 2009). Pharmacology and Abuse of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Related Designer Drugs. Springer Netherlands. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-90-481-2447-3.
- Pennachio, Marcello et al. (2010). Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany As Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense, and Medicine. Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 9780195370010.
- Goldfrank, Lewis R. & Flommenbaum, Neil (2006). Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 677. ISBN 9780071479141.
- Barceloux, Donald G. (2008). "Cascara". Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants, and Venomous Animals. John Wiley & Sons. p. 1877. ISBN 9781118382769.
- Pennachio, Marcello et al. (2010). Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany As Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense, and Medicine. Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 9780195370010.
- Turner, Matt W. (2009). Remarkable Plants of Texas: Uncommon Accounts of Our Common Natives. University of Texas Press. p. 209. ISBN 9780292718517.
- Nellis, David W. (1997). Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Pineapple Press. p. 238. ISBN 9781561641116.
- Austin, Alfredo Lopez et al. (2005). Mexico's Indigenous Past. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780806137230.
- Biaggioni, Italo et al. (2011). Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System. Academic Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780123865250.
- Pennachio, Marcello et al. (2010). Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany As Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense, and Medicine. Oxford University Press. pp. 82–83. ISBN 9780195370010.
- Davis, Wade (1997). The Serpent and the Rainbow: a Harvard scientist's astonishing journey into the secret societies of Haitian voodoo, zombis and magic. Simon & Schuster. p. [page needed]. ISBN 9780684839295.
- Molvaer, Reidulf Knut (1995). Socialization and Social Control in Ethiopia. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 259. ISBN 9783447036627.
- Clairvius Narcisse
- Davis, Wade (1985), The Serpent and the Rainbow, New York: Simon & Schuster
- Chopra, I.C. (2006). Indigenous Drugs of India. Academic Publishers. p. 143. ISBN 9788185086804.
- "Datura species". Plants Poisonous to Livestock. Cornell University Department of Animal Science. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
- Beverley, Robert. "Book II: Of the Natural Product and Conveniencies in Its Unimprov'd State, Before the English Went Thither". The History and Present State of Virginia, In Four Parts (University of North Carolina). p. 24 (Book II). Retrieved 2008-12-15.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Datura stramonium.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Datura stramonium|
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Profile: Datura stramonium L.
- USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN): Datura stramonium L.
- Datura stramonium at Liber Herbarum II
- Datura spp. at Erowid
- Datura stramonium Pictures and information