Facts and health benefits of Thorn Apple (Datura)

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Facts and health benefits of Thorn Apple (Datura)

Thorn Apple (Datura) Quick Facts
Name: Thorn Apple (Datura)
Scientific Name: Datura stramonium
Origin North America, probably Mexico
Colors Green when young turning to greyish brown
Shapes Egg-shaped seed capsule is 1 to 3 in (3–8 cm) in diameter and either covered with spines or bald
Taste Bitter
Health benefits Fever Treatment, Impotence, Boosted Immune System, Improved Fertility, Better Respiratory Health, Heart Health, Anxiety and Stress , Hair Care, Healthy Pregnancy, Regular Sleep, Improved Mood
Datura stramonium, known by the English names Thorn Apple (Datura), jimsonweed or devil’s snare, is a plant in the Solanaceae family which is only of the deadliest from the Nightshade family. It is considered to have originated in North America, probably Mexico, but it is now widespread in vacant lots, along roadsides, and in other “waste places” in temperate and warm regions around the world. Other popular common names for the plant include Jamestown weed, Common thorn-apple, False castor-oil, Jimsonweed, Mad apple, Moonflower, Purple thorn-apple, datura, Stinkwort, Thorn apple, Devil’s-apple, Stramonium jimsonweed, Devil’s trumpet, Jamestown weed, Stramonium, devil’s cucumber, pricklyburr, locoweed, tolguacha, devil’s weed, hell’s bell, devil’s snare, stinkweed and false castor oil plant.

The common name ‘Jimsonweed’ is probably a corruption of ‘Jamestown Weed,’ referring to where this species was first observed in town of Jamestown, Virginia, where British soldiers consumed it while attempting to defeat Bacon’s Rebellion. They spent 11 days in altered mental states. Another common name that is often used for this species is ‘Thornapple.’ The genus name Datura is derived from dhatura, the Bengali name for the plant, while the epithet stramonium combines the Greek word strychnos for nightshade, and makinos meaning mad, referring to the narcotic properties of the species.

The plants, seeds, flowers, leaves and roots have all been traditionally used for medicinal or visionary purposes around the world. Dried leaves have been made into smoking blends, sometimes in combination with tobacco or cannabis, and all parts have been used to make teas and ointments. It has been used in traditional medicine to relieve asthma symptoms and as an analgesic during surgery or bone setting. It is also a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, which is used entheogenically 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.

Plant description

Thorn Apple (Datura) is a foul-smelling, erect, bushy, annual, freely branching herb that grows up to 2 to 5 ft. (60 to 150 cm) tall. The plant is found growing in cropland (particularly corn fields), fallow fields, old feed lots, piles of soil at construction sites, mounds of decomposed mulch and discarded vegetation, urban vacant lots, and miscellaneous waste areas. It tolerates various soil types but prefers clayey or loamy soils. Roots are long, white, thick, shallow, fibrous and extensively branched, but in some soils a stout, branched peg-like taproot with extensive stringy lateral roots can develop. The plant has stout, erect, leafy, smooth, and green to purplish, stems. The stem forks off repeatedly into branches and each fork forms a leaf and a single, erect flower.

Leaves

In the seedling stage, the first true leaves are ovate with pointed tips and few or no lobes. In later stages the leaves, which have an unpleasant smell when crushed, are alternate, ovate to broadly triangular, glabrous, unevenly toothed, 5-25 cm long, 4-25 cm wide, on a petiole and up to 10 cm long. 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.

Flower & Fruits

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. Flowering normally takes place from July to October. Flowers are followed by an ovoid, egg-shaped seed capsule, 3.5-6.5 cm long, 2-5 cm wide, opening by four valves and densely covered with more or less equal spines up to 15 mm long, rarely smooth. At maturity, it splits into four chambers, each with dozens of small seeds.  The numerous seeds are dark brown to black, flat, kidney-shaped with an irregularly pitted surface, 3-4 mm long and 2-3 mm wide.

Varieties

Several different species of Datura are available. All the species are similar in medicinal properties. However, Ayurveda describes Datura Metal as the most suitable for medicinal purpose. Some of the popular Datura species are:

  • Datura metal
  • Datura Alba
  • Datura stramonium
  • Datura fastuosa
  • Datura candida (Pers) Saff
  • Datura ceratocaula Ortega
  • Datura discolor Bernh
  • Datura dolichocarpa (Lagerh) Saff
  • Datura ferox L
  • Datura innoxia Mill
  • Datura inoxia Mill
  • Datura kymatocarpa Barclay
  • Datura leichhardtii Benth
  • Datura reburra Barclay
  • Datura wrightii Regel

All these species belong to potato family Solanaceae. Several Datura plants and species are used as drugs and many other species are treated as weeds. Listed below is few information of popular datura

1. Datura Alba (White datura)

Datura Alba bears white flowers and it grows naturally in Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim in India.

2. Datura metal (purple datura)

Datura metal is used in ayurvedic medicine and religious purposes. It is extensively used in asthma, persistence cough and pain disorders. Its effects are associated with codeine in persistent cough and all modern bronchodilators in asthma.

3. Datura stramonium (Black datura)

Datura stramonium is a source of a hypnotic drug known as stramonium. It has hypnotic and sedative effects.

Health Benefits of Datura

The plants, seeds, flowers, leaves and roots have all been traditionally used for medicinal or visionary purposes around the world.  It is useful in asthma, cough, fever, inflammations, edema, neuralgia, insanity, myalgia, hyperacidity, duodenal ulcer, renal colic, calculi, and dysmenorrhea. Roots are used for bites of rabid dogs. Leaf is useful in inflammations and piles. Leaf juice is applied externally for lice and in skin diseases. Let’s take a closer look at some of these interesting health benefits of datura

1. Fever Treatment

Fruit of the datura can be used to reduce certain types of fever.  Traditionally, it has been effective for the treatment of malaria, a problem that is still present in many places in the world. The fruit can be directly consumed after being burnt. (1)

2. Boosted Immune System

The plant consists of decent amount of ascorbic acid found in datura, and additionally, the high concentration of antioxidants contributes to the strength of the immune system. It encourages the production of white blood cells and neutralized various free radicals throughout various systems of the body.(2)

3. Better Respiratory Health

When you use datura in the same way as cannabis, namely rolling and smoking it, it can have certain antispasmodic effects on the body. This is mostly effective for the treatment of asthma, as it can calm the respiratory tracts and prevent them from closing up and inducing coughing. This antispasmodic can have effects on the rest of the body as well, such as relaxing muscles. (3)

4. Heart Health

By calming the body and mind, it can relax the cardiovascular system. This helps people who suffer from heart arrhythmias or palpitations, as well as reducing blood pressure and lowering the chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. (4)

5. Healthy Pregnancy

If case you are suffering from a painful pregnancy or delivery, the application of datura in a topical way can be quite helpful. Following delivery, once your baby is no longer dependent on your body directly, you can consume small amounts of fruit and even smoke this plant for pain relief and mental calm. (5)

6. Regular Sleep

Sedative qualities of datura have often been recommended as a sleep aid. By calming the nerves, inducing healthy hormonal release, and reducing inflammation and pain, datura can efficiently deliver restful, undisturbed sleep for people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. (6)

7. Improved Mood

Datura has the ability to improve mood and reduce stress. By causing the release of certain hormones into the body, it can relieve stress and calm the mind. For those who frequently suffer from stress, that build-up of hormones in the body can be hazardous. Smoking small amounts of datura have traditionally been used to improve mood and relieve symptoms of depression. (7)

8. Improved Fertility

Datura has been used traditionally as a boost for sexual energy, libido, and fertility. Although the exact pathway isn’t understood in this particular pathway, smoking datura has been associated with increased sexual energy. By submerging the seeds into water or milk, you can also increase circulation to the genitals, which increases fertility and the health of the sperm. (8)

9. Hair Care

If you suffer from male pattern baldness, then you can easily create a lotion for the hair that can be applied to boost hair health. It stimulates the growth of new hair and the maintenance of follicle beds so they don’t stop producing or holding hair. Highly potent juice for baldness should not be consumed, as it is such a high concentration. (9)

10. Impotence

One of the most popular uses of datura in traditional medicine was like a boost of sexual energy, libido and fertility. Although the exact route is not known at this particular pathway, datura smoking has been linked to increase fertility. Submerging the seeds in water or milk, it can also increase circulation in the genitals, increasing fertility and sperm health.

11. Anxiety and Stress

One of the most notable effects of datura is their ability to reduce stress. By causing the release of certain hormones in the body, you can relieve stress and calm the mind. For those who regularly suffer from stress, the accumulation of hormones in the body can be hazardous. Smoking small amounts of datura have traditionally been used to improve mood and relieve symptoms of depression.

Traditional uses and benefits of Thorn apple (Datura)

  • Datura has long been used for asthma symptoms in ayurvedic medicines in India.
  • Leaves are generally smoked either in a cigarette or a pipe.
  • The Zuni once used datura as an analgesic, to render patients unconscious while broken bones were set.
  • The Chinese also used it in this manner, as a form of anesthesia during surgery.
  • 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 Ethiopia.
  • Thorn apple is a bitter narcotic plant that relieves pain and encourages healing.
  • Leaves, flowering tops and seeds are anodyne, anti-asthmatic, antispasmodic, hallucinogenic, hypnotic, mydriatic and narcotic.
  • Plant is used internally in the treatment of asthma and Parkinson’s disease, excess causes giddiness, dry mouth, hallucinations and coma.
  • Externally, it is used as a poultice or washes in the treatment of fistulas, abscesses wounds and severe neuralgia.
  • Leaves can be used as a very powerful mind-altering drug, they contain hyoscyamine and atropine.
  • Atropine dilates the pupils and is used in eye surgery.
  • Leaves have been smoked as an antispasmodic in the treatment for asthma, though this practice is extremely dangerous.
  • Juice of the fruit is applied to the scalp to treat dandruff and falling hair.
  • Datura leaves counter fever, malarial fever and headaches.
  • Combination of Datura leaf and Jaggery is used for lowering the temperature in Malaria.
  • Datura leaves are suitable for treating Asthma.
  • Fumes produced by burning dried Datura leaves are antispasmodic in nature.
  • Inhaling the fumes provides relief during an Asthma attack.
  • Datura leaves are useful in treating various Heart ailments.
  • It helps in keeping cardiac troubles at bay and regulates Heat Beat.
  • Leaves are an effective treatment for Hypertension and Distress.
  • Juice of Datura leaves is beneficial in treating Earaches and Ear infections.
  • Leaves are also used for enhancing milk production in lactating mothers.
  • Seeds are beneficial in curbing Hair troubles like Dandruff and Hair fall.
  • Datura seed oil is applied on bald patches to enhance hair growth.
  • Seeds of a ripe Datura fruit are dried and boiled in cow’s milk for treating Impotence.
  • Datura, Longwort and Laung are taken with milk in the treatment of early discharge in men.
  • Datura seed ash is taken in low dosage for countering excessive sweating in hands and feet.
  • Datura flowers are an ideal remedy for treating infertility in women.
  • Flower powder is taken with honey 10 days post menstruation.
  • Datura seeds are anti-diabetic in nature; they are used along with Black pepper in reducing sugar levels.
  • Datura is effective in combating mental disorders namely epilepsy, schizophrenia, coma and insomnia.
  • It is beneficial in treatment of nervous disorders namely Parkinson’s Disorder and Neuralgia.
  • It is effective in treating Dryness in Mouth, toothache and throat infections.
  • Datura is a good herbal remedy for curing respiratory troubles namely bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma and cold.
  • It is favorable for skin troubles like blisters, abscess, boils and itching.
  • Decoction prepared from its leaves is a pain reliever and recovers injuries and wounds.
  • It is useful for patients battling chronic disease.
  • It is helpful in overcoming motion sickness and giddiness. It mitigates abdominal pain.
  • It helps in getting rid of Intestinal worms and prevent further invasion.
  • Datura calms Sciatica pain.
  • It combats Enuresis i.e. Bed wetting.
  • Seeds and leaves of Datura were used to sedate hysterical and psychotic patients, also to treat insomnia.
  • It was reported that Datura was used internally to treat madness, epilepsy and depression.
  • Leaf ash is eaten as a cure for whooping cough in Burundi.
  • Dried and ground leaves and seeds are eaten mixed with fat to treat ringworm in Kenya.
  • Pieces of young fruit are sucked against tonsillitis and sore throat and applied to abscesses and swollen glands in Ethiopia.
  • Fruit is heated in hot ash and after cooling juice is squeezed and used as ear drops to treat earache in Kenya and Lesotho.
  • An infusion of fruit ash is drunk to treat stomach-ache in Zimbabwe.
  • Smoke of burning seeds is inhaled to relieve toothache in Ethiopia.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Thorn Apple (Datura)

  • Bronchitis: Take 4 to 5 dried Datura leaves. Burn them. Breathe the smoke for 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat this for 3 to 4 days.
  • Respiratory Diseases: If someone is facing difficulty in breathing, just burn 4 to 5 dried Datura Leaves. Inhale the smoke for 2 minutes. It gives instant relief.
  • Asthma: Take 4 to 5 dried Datura leaves. Burn them. Inhale the smoke; repeat it 2 times in a day. Daily use is beneficial for Asthma and Bronchitis.
  • Abscess: Datura Leaves are very useful in case of Abscess. Heat required fresh Datura. Place on the affected part and bandage. It helps to cure Abscess and pain. (Note: You may put Castor Oil over Leaf for additional benefits.)
  • Toothache: Many parts of Datura have been used to treat toothache with different methods.
  1. Seeds: Burn some Datura seeds. Breathe in the smoke of burnt seeds. It alleviates the toothache.
  2. Roots: Take fresh or dried Datura roots. Grind them by adding little water. Apply paste on the affected tooth. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes. It provides an effective relief.
  • Wounds: Make a decoction of Datura Leaves. Leave it to cool down the decoction. Use it to wash wounds at least twice a day.
  • Anti galactogogue: Warm Datura leaves and wraps it over the breasts. Repeat the process two times a day.
  • Rheumatism: Have 1 to 2 tablespoons of Datura leaves juice daily. OR: Crush the leaves of Datura and use as a poultice on the affected area 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Earache: Boil 3 to 4 leaves of Datura in a cup of water for 10 to 12 minutes. Strain the solution and let it cool. Put 1-2 drops in Ear two times a day.
  • Baldness: Take the seeds of 1 to 2 Datura fruits. Grind it with a little bit of water to form a paste. Apply it on the affected area. Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse off. Do this twice a week. OR: Apply Datura oil on your scalp for Hair Fall. OR: You may apply juice of Datura on your scalp to get rid of Hair fall.
  • Dandruff: Take the 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh juice of Datura leaves. Apply to the scalp. Rinse off with water after 2-3 hours. Repeat this 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Hydrophobia: Apply the juice of Datura by mixing it with Red Chili.
  • Aphrodisiac: Prepare a decoction, made of Datura leaves or flowers and one cup of water. Strain and drink it.
  • Pain: Roast a hand full leaves of Datura and make a paste. Apply this on the affected area to get relief from pain.
  • Headache: Take some fresh leaves of Datura and make a paste. Now apply this paste on your forehead. It gives relief from Headache.
  • Impotence: Take dried seeds of Datura obtained from the ripened fruit. Boil these seeds in Cow’s Milk to obtain the extract. Apply this extract on the penis, two times a day. Regular Massage will help to improve the blood circulation to the genital organs, thus help in curing Impotence.
  • Baldness: Take 2 to 3 teaspoons Datura seeds. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Milk Cream and 2 to 3 teaspoons of Liquorice powder in it. Grind to form a paste. Heat this paste in 1 to 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil until it gets charred. Let the solution cool. Apply it on the affected area. Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash with shampoo. Do this 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Earache: Take 125 gm. juice of datura leaves and same amount of sesame oil. Mix well. Boil in a tin vessel for 5 to 10 minutes on medium flame till the juice remains half. Add 5 to 6 leaves of Sodom and a pinch of salt in it. Boil till it gets a thick consistency. Strain and let it cool. Put 2 to 3 drops of this solutions in the affected area twice a day.
  • Cracked feet: Make a paste of datura seeds and apply this paste on cracked feet. This application helps in treating cracked feet.
  • Insanity: Take 125 mg of Datura Root Powder, 500 ml Milk, 5 gm. Jaggery and 5 ml Clarified Butter. Take Milk in a saucepan. Add Datura root powder, Jaggery and Clarified Butter in it. Stir well. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the Milk. Drink twice a day.
  • Malaria: Grind 1 to 2 fresh leaves of Datura to form a paste. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Jaggery in it. Mix well. Have it daily to cure Malaria.
  • Leucoderma: Grind Ziziphus Xylopyrus leaves and Datura flowers. Apply it over the affected areas before going to bed.
  • Breast pain: A paste is made from datura leaves and mixed with a small amount of turmeric. This paste is applied on the affect breast for relieving breast pain.
  • Hysteria: Grind Ziziphus Xylopyrus leaves and Datura flowers. Apply it over the affected areas before going to bed.
  • Intestinal worms: 5 to 6 drops of datura leaf juice is given to patients with buttermilk for getting rid of intestinal worms.
  • Schizophrenia: Take milk and add white datura root powder, Jaggery and ghee. Boil the milk with all these ingredients and strain the milk in a glass. Give this mixture to patient suffering with schizophrenia.
  • Headache: Grind Ziziphus Xylopyrus leaves and Datura flowers. Apply it over the affected areas before going to bed.
  • Ear infection with pus: Take 80 ml mustard oil, 10 grams purified sulphur, 10 grams turmeric powder and 320 ml of datura leaf juice. Now Take mustard oil and add all other three ingredients. Simmer the mixture until oil remains. Then strain the oil and discard residues. This oil is instilled in ear with infections and pus.
  • Filariasis or elephantiasis: Datura seeds and pipper longum is used to treat filariasis.
  • Carbuncles: Datura root paste is prepared with water and applied on the carbuncles. It helps to treat carbuncles and prevents scaring.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A juice prepared from datura, calotropis and castor leaves is applied on swelling and inflammation of joints due to rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Sciatica: Hot paste of datura leaves is applied along the course of sciatica nerve to get rid of pain.
  • Epilepsy: Take 20 mg Datura seed powder, 20 mg saffron and 20 mg mishri. All three ingredients are mixed in equal ratio. This mixture is instilled in nose during epilepsy attack.
  • Epilepsy: Mixture of 60 mg of datura seed powder and 60 mg black pepper with butter is beneficial for epilepsy.
  • Diabetes Mellitus: Mixture of 60 mg datura seed powder and 60 mg black pepper is beneficial for diabetes mellitus.
  • Nightfall in Men: Tablets prepared from 30 mg datura seed powder, 30 mg white cumin, 30 mg coriander seeds and Triphala water are used to treat nightfall in men. OR Mix first three ingredients in powder form and take this mixture with Triphala water.
  • Malaria fever: Fresh Datura leaves are beneficial in malaria fever. A small amount of leaf paste is given with Jaggery to lower the temperature in malaria.
  • Early discharge in men: Take 30 mg datura seed powder, 30 mg Akarkara and 30 mg clove. This mixture is given with milk twice a day for beneficial outcomes.
  • Infertility in women: Dried powder of datura flowers in dosage of 120 mg is given with honey 10 days after menstruation. It is given for 5 to 7 days. This remedy is effective in infertility of unknown reason.
  • Excessive sweating: Datura seed ash is given in dosage of one gram for seven days in patients complaining excessive sweating in hands and feet.
  • Headache: Consuming 2-3 seeds regularly helps to cure headache.

Dosage

  • Datura seed powder: 60 mg to 125 mg
  • Datura leaf powder: 60 mg to 200 mg
  • Datura root powder: 60 mg to 200 mg
  • Datura flowers: 60 mg to 125 mg
  • Datura seed ash: 500 mg to 1 gram (Datura seed ash is the residue left after burning the datura seeds.)

Other facts

  • Onset of symptoms generally occurs around 30 to 60 minutes after ingesting the herb.
  • 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, Cherokee, Marie Galente, and Luiseño also used this plant in sacred ceremonies for its hallucinogenic properties.
  • It should be used with extreme caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner since all parts of the plant are very poisonous and the difference between a medicinal dose and a toxic dose is very small.
  • Growing plant is said to protect neighboring plants from insects.
  • One acre of Jimson weed produced 700 pounds of seed. Birds play important role in dispersal of seed.
  • In Namibia a leaf extract is administered to cows to ensure a rapid expulsion of the afterbirth.
  • Pulped roots are mixed with water and given to cattle to cure lung diseases.

Precautions

  • Datura intoxication typically produces delirium, hyperthermia, tachycardia, bizarre behavior, and severe mydriasis with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days.
  • Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect.
  • These symptoms generally last from 24 to 48 hours, but have been reported in some cases to last as long as two weeks.
  • All members of this genus contain narcotics and are very poisonous, even in small doses.
  • Its side effects may include Nervous System Problems, Hallucination, Amnesia, Blurred Vision, Convulsions, Dizziness, Delirium, Psychosis, Heart Problem, Palpitation, Dilated Pupils, Blurred Vision, Nausea, Giddiness, Confusion and Fast Heart Rate.
  • Juice of datura leaves is also very harmful for eyes.
  • Datura increases the heart beat and may lead to cardiac arrest.

Emergency treatment of datura poisoning

  • Stomach wash is the first step of emergency treatment of datura poisoning. First, the gastrointestinal tract is cleaned out. For this purpose, activated charcoal is used.
  • In extreme cases of datura overdose or poisoning, low doses of physostigmine may require to reverse the life threatening symptoms such as seizures, coma and respiratory depression.
  • If strong hallucinations occur, patient may need benzodiazepines like ativan and valium. Hallucination due to datura can last for 48 to 72 hours.
  • Patients with anticholinergic toxicity are required to admit in ICU until the symptoms of anticholinergic toxicity disappear.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=30520#null

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/14/

http://www.hear.org/pier/species/datura_stramonium.htm

https://pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Datura+stramonium

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/18006

http://www.floracatalana.net/datura-stramonium-l

https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/t/thorna12.html

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=13323

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=dast

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-2757848

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_stramonium

https://keys.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/eafrinet/weeds/key/weeds/Media/Html/Datura_stramonium_(Common_Thorn_Apple).htm

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Datura_stramonium_(PROTA)

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