Magical, Mystical and Medicinal

Thorn Apple – Hallucinations, Seizures, Coma and Death

Datura stramonium L.

The misuse of the ladies in love is to give up to half a dragma of this seeds ground in wine, or in what they most like, and the one who takes it is alienated for a long time, laughing, crying, or sleeping with various effects and many times speaking and responding, the poor person who has taken it seems to be in his own mind when in reality he is not and not knowing the person with whom he speaks, nor remembering him, after the alienation has passed.

Acosta, C. 1578. Tratado Delas drogas, y medicinas de las Indias Orientales

The genus Datura, in the Solanaceae family, includes several species which have been used for their psychoactive properties, such as Datura innoxia Mill., Datura metel L., Datura ceratocaula Ortega, used by the Aztecs as hallucinogen or Datura stramonium L.

Recent taxonomic studies show that all species of the genus are native to the American continent. However, some authors maintain the existence of written and iconographic evidence of the presence of at least one species of Datura (D. metel) in pre-Columbian times in India and the Middle East and also the use of D. metel or D. stramonium during mediaeval times in Europe. However the lack of Datura remains in pre-Columbian archaeological sites raise doubts about the presence of these species in Europe before this time. Today, several species have a cosmopolitan distribution and are naturalised in tropical and temperate areas worldwide, with D. stramonium being the most common species in Europe.

In the Americas a number of species have traditionally been used for their hallucinogenic and medicinal properties by various indigenous groups. More than 70 alkaloids have been found in the Datura genus, the most abundant being hyoscyamine, valued for its sedative effects, followed by hyoscine, scopolamine and atropine. In modern medicine various species are used for the treatment of asthma and Parkinson´s, to alleviate dizziness, as an antispasmodic and as a sedative for schizophrenic patients. Thorn apples are very toxic and can cause hallucinations, euphoria, seizures, tachycardia and, in some cases, coma and death. Some species are cultivated for medicinal and ornamental purposes.