The Health Benefits of Belladonna

Touted as helpful for asthma and allergies, the herb poses safety concerns

Belladonna pellets, tablets, dried herb, and tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is an herb in the nightshade family. It can be a toxic herb in crude form and is, therefore, most commonly used in highly diluted form for use in homeopathy.

Despite many claims, there is little scientific support for the health benefits of belladonna. What's more, belladonna contains chemicals that are known to be toxic to human health—that's why the herb is also known as deadly nightshade. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), belladonna in its herbal form is considered as likely unsafe.

Because of this, the highly diluted homeopathic supplements of belladonna are used instead by some people to relieve colds and hay fever, calm colicky babies, ease motion sickness, and more.

  • In its homeopathic form, it is often used for inflammation, high fever, cramping, and spasms.
  • In its herbal form, it has been used to relieve asthma, sciatica, hemorrhoids, and pain.
  • Compounds of the herb are also used in pharmaceutical medicine to treat irritable bowel syndrome and colitis.

The herb has also been used as a recreational drug that produces vivid hallucinations and delirium.

Health Benefits

There is not enough scientific evidence to rate the effectiveness of belladonna for any health condition, according to the NIH.

Due to the toxicity of the herb, the available research on belladonna involves studies on highly diluted homeopathic preparations of belladonna. While some research suggests that belladonna could offer potential benefits, more studies—and studies on humans, specifically—are needed before the herb can be recommended for any of these uses.

Inflammation Reduction

A 2004 study published in the journal Homeopathy suggests that homeopathic preparations of belladonna may help reduce inflammation associated with peritonitis, a condition marked by irritation of the tissue lining the inner wall of the abdomen.

The study examined the effect of homeopathic preparations of Atropa belladonna and Echinacea angustifolia on inflammatory markers in mice with peritonitis and found the treatments reduced inflammation.

Wound Repair

An herbal preparation of belladonna shows promise for treating wounds, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration.

Researchers studied the effects of belladonna on wounds in rats and in cell cultures and found that belladonna positively affects the early phases of skin wound healing.

Postoperative Pain Care

Belladonna combined with opium may help to relieve pain following surgeries involving the uterus, prostate, and urinary tracts.

Studies published in the journal Urology and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2017 found rectal suppositories of belladonna and opium helped to reduce post-surgical pain.

Possible Side Effects

While the leaves and roots of the belladonna plant are said to offer sedative effects, its berries are poisonous.

The safety of belladonna preparations is uncertain. The NIH reports that taking belladonna orally is unsafe, but research into ultramolecular homeopathic preparations suggests that highly diluted doses of the belladonna are safe.

A 2001 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research confirmed homeopathic preparations of belladonna are safe, though their effectiveness for treating any symptom is unclear. In the study, 118 healthy volunteers were given 30CH belladonna or a placebo in a random sequence. At the end of the eight-week trial, researchers found no difference in the health effects of the two treatments.

A 2003 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found similar results. In a double-blind study, researchers gave 253 healthy volunteers a placebo for one week, then either 30C belladonna or placebo for two weeks. Subjects kept a symptom journal and completed a questionnaire about their symptoms. Researchers found no significant differences between the belladonna group and the placebo group and concluded that ultramolecular homeopathy with belladonna had no observable negative effects.

Possible side effects of overdose of belladonna include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Fever
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Inability to urinate or sweat
  • Hallucinations
  • Spasms
  • Mental problems
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Women who are pregnant and people with certain health conditions, including congestive heart failure, constipation, glaucoma, and ulcerative colitis, should not take belladonna, since serious complications may arise.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in 2010 about homeopathic infant teething tablets and gels that contain belladonna. Serious side effects, including seizures, breathing problems, tiredness, constipation, difficulty urinating, and agitation, have been reported in infants taking these products. The FDA warning noted that these products may contain inaccurate doses of belladonna.

History of Belladonna Use

Native to Europe, North Africa, and Southern Asia, belladonna was used as a poison dating back to Ancient Rome, where it was rumored to have killed Emperor Augustus. In Scotland, King Macbeth is said to have used it to poison British troops, and it is believed Shakespeare used a belladonna potion to put his character Juliet to sleep.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Belladonna dried herb

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Belladonna is most commonly found in its highly diluted form as a homeopathic. Because of the dangers in taking belladonna in its herbal form, it may be found minimally for oral use as a tincture and should only be possessed and used by those with, or under the direction of, individuals appropriately trained in its safe application and use.

There is no standard dose for belladonna. Homeopathic belladonna pellets are typically sold as 30X for children and 30C for adults. X and C denote the potency or dilution rate in homeopathy; X is a 1:10 ratio of dilution and C is a 1:100 ratio.

The theory behind homeopathy is somewhat similar to modern-day vaccinations. Introducing diluted substances that cause symptoms in a healthy person is believed to relieve those very symptoms in someone who is sick. Homeopathy uses small amounts of a substance that is diluted many times over, then agitated to activate it in a process called succession.

Belladonna should be stored in its original container at room temperature in dry location.

Common Questions

What is the Belladonna Cure?
Belladonna was briefly used in the treatment of acute alcoholism in the early 20th century in a protocol that was dubbed the Belladonna Cure. Developed at the Towns Hospital in New York City, it combined belladonna with other herbs and therapies that were given to people who were detoxing from alcohol. The herb was given to the patient every hour around the clock for approximately two days, resulting in hallucinations.

The most well-known person to cease drinking following the Belladonna Cure is Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who claims to have had a spiritual awakening under the treatment. The protocol was stopped due to concerns that the treatment was ineffective and potentially poisonous.

A Word From Verywell

Given the safety concerns and lack of scientific support for its use, herbal preparations of belladonna cannot be recommended for any health condition.

If you're considering the use of herbal supplements, talk with your physician first. It's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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  1. US National Library of Medicine. Belladonna. March 24, 2021.

  2. Pedalino CM, Perazzo FF, Carvalho JC, Martinho KS, Massoco Cde O, Bonamin LV. Effect of Atropa belladonna and Echinacea angustifolia in homeopathic dilution on experimental peritonitis. Homeopathy. 2004;93(4):193-8. doi:10.1016/j.homp.2004.07.004

  3. Gál P, Toporcer T, Grendel T, et al. Effect of Atropa belladonna L. on skin wound healing: biomechanical and histological study in rats and in vitro study in keratinocytes, 3T3 fibroblasts, and human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Wound Repair Regen. 2009;17(3):378-86. doi:10.1111/j.1524-475X.2009.00475.x

  4. Butler K, Yi J, Wasson M, et al. Randomized controlled trial of postoperative belladonna and opium rectal suppositories in vaginal surgery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017;216(5):491.e1-491.e6. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2016.12.032

  5. Walach H, Köster H, Hennig T, Haag G. The effects of homeopathic belladonna 30CH in healthy volunteers—a randomized, double-blind experiment. J Psychosom Res. 200;50(3):155-60. doi:10.1016/s0022-3999(00)00224-5

  6. Brien S, Lewith G, Bryant T. Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2003;56(5):562-8. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.01900.x

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