This section is from the book "A Guide To The Poisonous Plants And Weed Seeds Of Canada And The Northern United States", by Robert Boyd Thomson, H. B. Sifton. Also available from Amazon: A guide to the poisonous plants and weed seeds of Canada and the northern United States.
Other Common Names: Jimson Weed, Jamestown Weed, Stramonium, Devil's Apple, Mad Apple, Stinkwort.
This plant is very poisonous in all its parts. There are a few cases of animal poisoning from its young leaves, but it is usually avoided. Children have repeatedly been poisoned by eating the seeds, in many cases so severely as to cause death. The plant contains atropin and hyoscya-min as well as other drugs. The symptoms of poisoning are: headache, nausea, vertigo, extreme thirst, dry, burning skin and general nervous confusion, with dilated pupils, loss of sight and of voluntary motion, and sometimes mania, convulsions and death.
The treatment is to empty the stomach by means of stomach tube or emetics, wash it out with tannic acid, strong tea, or an infusion of oak bark, and administer stimulants.
The plant grows on waste ground throughout the country. It is from two to five feet high with smooth stems and sinuately lobed leaves with the lobes taper-pointed. The large, white flowers two inches or more in length, are tubular, with five lobes at the apex. The seeds are contained in ovoid capsules one to one and a half inches long, usually covered with spines, and splitting into four parts when ripe. The whole plant has a pronounced sickening odour.
Fig. 39. - Jimson Weed - Datura Stramonium,
The Purple Thorn Apple, Datura Tatula L., has similar effects to those of Datura Stramonium. It may be distinguished from it by its purple stems and pale purple flowers.
The Tobacco Plant, Nicotiana tabacum L., contains the alkaloid nicotin whose action has been much discussed. Dry leaves of the tobacco plant contain 6% of the alkaloid, which is a very powerful and rapid poison. Dr. Winslow summarizes the symptoms caused by swallowing nicotin and the proper treatment in such a case. First there is irritation and pain in the throat and stomach. Then comes trembling and weakness, followed by convulsions, which later cease. The pupils are contracted. Then vomiting and purging and increased urination are produced. Respiration is at first slow, then rapid.
The proper treatment is to empty the stomach and use tannic acid and heart stimulants such as strychnin, atro-pin or alcohol.
Nicotin cannot be held directly responsible for all the effects due to smoking, as it is easily decomposed by heat into pyridin and other similar alkaloids. Pyridin, in large doses, causes depression of the spinal nerves and paralysis of respiration.
The plant is from four to six feet high, with very large ovate lanceolate leaves and panicles of rose-purple flowers with a funnel-form corolla two inches long. It is a native of South America.
Wild Tobacco, Nicotiana rustica L., is found in Ontario and southward, and was cultivated by the Indians. Its effects are similar to those of common tobacco. It is an annual, with ovate leaves and greenish-yellow flowers.