Belladonna, Caucasus (Caucasus Belladonna) (Atropa caucasica)
Native to the Northern Caucasus. Used in local medicine. Very similar to Atropa belladonna in overall leaf form, flowers and size, the one significant difference is that caucasica has purple stems, as opposed to the green stems of Atropa belladonna.
Toxicity: All parts of the plant, with the probable exception of the berry, are loaded with the very serious alkaloids atropine and scopalamine. As is often the case with such plants, the seed is particularly potent. Therefore although the berry may be eaten without ill effects (and actually they are blueberry-like in taste and quite delicious, especially if one ignores the slightly heineous undertones of taste), if the berry is consumed along with the seeds, then the typical side-effects (atropine overdose) will most likely occur. This may include hallucination with mental derengement, excessive urination and urine off-odour, tunnel vision or often temporary blindness, lasting sometimes only an evening and sometimes dragging on for several days. Warn children not to eat the berries.
Description: Historical and current herbal usage: In olden times, the juice was much employed by maidens to drop into their eyes, thus dilating them and making them strangely comely. The plant is a mydriatic (pupil dilator). I know this goes counter to the statements under toxicity (above), but I guess that oral ingestion and ocular ingestion are not the same. The positive effects of the herb are best experienced through external use of oily preparations, including massage oils that sedate and relax muscle and nerve pain as well as salves made from the infused oil of leaf or root. The seeds are best extracted using an alcohol intermediary (strong tincture) that is stirred back into the hot oil prior to the addition of wax. The plant is also of use in allaying motion sickness, a leaf folded up and placed behind the ear purportedly serving the same function of a pharmaceutical antinauseant patch, which relies on the same or closely related molecules.
Cultivation: Plant prefers partial to full shade, average fertility, moist soil. Sow in fall or early spring. Slow to germ. Some degree of cold conditioning usually helpful, although I've seen them languish in the shadehouse while others planted under lights throve. But that's not always the way it works--you have to shift around a little to discover what each one likes. Do little farm-derived experiments where you sow a few seeds in one condtion, and others in another condition, with a leaning toward what you think will work best. Information derived through observation--stirring it up. That's what lays the groundwork for knowledge. Slow to germ. Ongoing germ for 6 weeks.
50 seeds/pkt $3.95, Certified Organically Grown