This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Nightshade: a plant with a monope-talous flower, divided into five segments, having its cup divided in the same manner, with the same number of (lamina in the middle, and followed by a juicy berry.
1. Belladonna Pharm. Edinb. & Parif. Solatium melanocerafos C. B. Solatium lethale. Atropa Belladonna Linn. Deadly nightshade or dwale: with the leaves oval, pointed, somewhat hairy; the flowers solitary in the bosoms of the leaves, of a dull purplish colour, tubulous, slightly cut, with the (lamina separate from one another; the berries of a glossy black. It is perennial, grows wild in some shady waste grounds, and flowers in July.
2. Solanum Pharm. Parif. Solanum officina-rum C. B. Solanum nigrum Linn. Garden nightshade: with the leaves oval, pointed, having generally some irregular indentations; the flowers in clutters, white, not tubulous, deeply cut, the segments spread out, and the tips of the stamina united into one button; the berries black. It is annual, grows spontaneously in cultivated grounds, and flowers in August.
(a) Dr. Withering in the Botan, Arrangement, fecond edit. p. 293.
The leaves of these plants have a faint smell, somewhat of the narcotic kind, which in drying is dissipated: on the organs of taste, whether fresh or dry, they make scarcely any impression. Their effects are nevertheless very powerful: in external applications, they are said to act as refrigerants, resolvents, and difcutients: taken internally, in the quantity of not many grains, they are highly deleterious, the first somewhat the most so. In very small doses, as an infusion in boiling water of half a grain or a grain of the dried leaves, they occasion a warmth over the whole body; which is often followed by a sweat, or an increase of the urinary dicharge, or some loose stools, or a sickness and vomiting; and often by a headach, giddiness, dimness of the fight, and other paralytic symptoms (a). In some cancerous, ulcerous, and hydropic cases, these insfusions have been repeated, at bed-time, every two or three nights or oftener, and the quantity of the leaves in each dose increased gradually to five or six grains or more, with apparent benefit: but they are so variable and irregular in their operation, and so liable, not only to fail of giving relief, but to be productive of very alarming symptoms by strongly- affecting the nervous system, that their use is deservedly laid aside. Their good effects, when they happen to prove medicinal, seem to depend, not on any alterative or peculiarly deobstruent power, but merely on the evacuations they produce: where they do not act as evacuants, they generally aggravate they complaints (a).
(a) Mr. Ray gives an account, from his own knowledge, of a pretty remarkable effect of a small piece (particula) of a fresh leaf of belladonna applied externally to a little ulcer, supposed cancerous, below the eye: the uvea became in one night so relaxed, that it loft all power of contracting the pupil, which, though exposed to the strongest light, continued dilated to four times its natural size, till the leaf being removed the parts gradually recovered their tone. The application was repeated three several times, and produced always the same effect. Hifi. plant. 680.
* In the Med. Comment, vol. i. p. 419, is a remarkable case of the efficacy of an external application of belladonna in discussing a scir-rhous tumour in the rectum, near the anus, which almost totally blocked up the passage. The mode of application was a poultice of the root boiled in milk. This was applied to the anus and perinaeum, and renewed morning and evening. In the space of a month it entirely dissolved the tumour, without any suppuration, or discharge of matter. The writer says that he could add more instances of the good effects of this plant externally applied.
The roots and berries appear to partake of the deleterious qualities of the leaves, though probably in different degrees: the berries in particular seem to be of much less activity. It is said that three or four of the berries of the deadly nightshade, which are reckoned more virulent than those of the other sort, have been some-times eaten without injury: Gefner reports that there expressed juice, boiled with a little sugar to the consistence of a syrup, proves, in doses of a tea-spoonful, an effectual and safe anodyne, but gives a particular caution not to exceed this doses dose. The Edinburgh college has directed the infpifiated juice of the leaves to be kept as an officinal.
(a) See Mr. Gataker's observations (and the fupplement thereto) on the internal use of the nightshade, and Mr. Brom-field's account of the English nigbtfbades and their effects.
3. Dulcamara Pharm. Edinb. Solatium fcandens feu dulcamara C. B. Amaradulcis & gly-cypicros quibufdam. Solarium Dulcamara Linn. Woody nightshade or bittersweet: with several of the leaves, particularly the upper ones, cut deeply into three sections, or rather furnished with two smaller appendages at the bottom; the flowers in clusters, of a blue colour, with the segments spread out and the stamina united as in the second species; the berries red. It grows by the sides of ditches and in moist hedges, climbing upon the bushes, with winding, woody, but brittle stalks. It is perennial, and flowers in June and July.
The roots and stalks of this species impress, on first chewing them, a considerable bitterness, which is soon followed by an almost honey-like sweetness. They have been commended in different disorders, as high resolvents and deob-struents: their sensible operation is by sweat, urine, and stool; the dose from four to six ounces of a tincture made by digesting four ounces of the twigs in a quart of white wine. Experience has shewn, that they are by no means equally deleterious with the two preceding nightshades; that they act more regularly and uniformly: and that, without producing nervous complaints, they produce more considerable evacuations, especially by stool; but their virtues in particular cases have not yet been suf-ficiently ascertained.
* In a medical dissertation on this plant, printed at Upfal, a light decoction and infufion of the stalks is the preparation recommended, and is said to have been frequently employed with success in violent ischiadic and rheumatic pains. The efficacy of the dulcamara in the jaundice, scurvy, suppressed menses, and the lues venerea, is also mentioned from other authors.
Succus spif-fatus belladonnas Ph. Ed.