Throughout the centuries, plants have developed many defense mechanisms to protect themselves from foraging animals. Some of them prove to be a skin irritant when touched, as in the case of nettles and poison ivy. Others cause severe reactions and even death on ingestion.
Today we’re going to talk about the Datura plant. Datura is actually a genus of more species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants from the Solanaceae family, commonly known as devil’s trumpets, moonflowers, jimsonweed, hell’s bells or thorn apple. The plant is highly poisonous, and has been used as a poison for suicide and murder for centuries.
In 1881, Albert Ladenburg isolated scopolamine in the plant, a tropane alkaloid that can cause sleepiness, dilated pupils and blurred vision. This is why the Datura plant is so popular among criminals, who use it to drug and kidnap people. The effects of the plant have been compared to a “zombie virus” – while under the influence, a person becomes obedient and vulnerable, which is why a derivative of the plant is often used as a rape drugs in night clubs. The Datura plant is so effective that you will fall under its effect in only a minute if you touch, smell or inhale it.
The strangest thing is that the effects of the plant on the victim aren’t noticeable. The plant makes everything appear normal, but the effects are very powerful.
Scopolamine has an effect on the cognitive system and our behavior as well. It is an aggressive psychotropic compound which can make the victim submissive. Once ingested, the victim is defenseless. The plant is easily available for most people – it can thrive in different climates and grows on river banks, around wastelands and stables, as well as on any open area. The Datura plant has been used for the preparation of drugs and as a natural remedy for certain diseases for centuries.
The dark and sweet seeds of the plant are the most toxic part – just 5-6 gr. of them can be lethal. The Datura plant contains three toxic propane alkaloids – scopolamine, atropine and hyoscyamine. These compounds have an effect similar to narcotics – in small amounts, then have anticholinergic properties that can cause delirium for hours, but can be fatal in large amounts. The main symptoms of these compounds are dry mouth, dizziness, dilated pupils, high blood pressure, seizures, hallucinations, tremors, paralysis and coma.
The effects of the plants can last for 8 hours or up to several days. Datura is one of the world’s most poisonous plants, and even its pollen is toxic, which is why it’s often used as a rape or kidnap drug. However, most people are unaware of the effects of scopolamine, and know nothing about the Datura plant.