Common Thornapple (Datura stramonium)
Origin: Native of the USA and Mexico.
Known Hazards: All members of this genus contain narcotics and are very poisonous, even in small doses.
Physical Characteristics: Flowers: Trumpet-shaped and 5-lobed, surrounded at base by sepals 3â€“5.5 cm long. Flowers summer.Annual herb to 1.5 m high. Leaves 8â€“36 cm long, ovate to rhombic, margins deeply lobed, lobe margins coarsely toothed to undulate. Capsule ovoid, 2â€“4.5 cm long.
Distinguishing features: Distinguished by hairless or sparsely hairy stems; white to lavender flowers, 6â€“10 cm long, stigma below to above anthers; erect spiny capsule, with over 100 spines of variable length, on a straight stalk; seeds black or grey, pitted, 2.5â€“4.5 mm long.
The thornapple is a bitter narcotic plant that relieves pain and encourages healing. It has a long history of use as a herbal medicine, though it is very poisonous and should be used with extreme caution. The leaves, flowering tops and seeds are anodyne, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, hallucinogenic, hypnotic, mydriatic and narcotic. The seeds are the most active medicinally. The 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 wash in the treatment of fistulas, abscesses wounds and severe neuralgia. The use of this plant is subject to legal restrictions in some countries. 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. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is in full flower, they are then dried for later use. The leaves can be used as a very powerful mind-altering drug, they contain hyoscyamine and atropine. There are also traces of scopolamine, a potent cholinergic-blocking hallucinogen, which has been used to calm schizoid patients. Atropine dilates the pupils and is used in eye surgery. The leaves have been smoked as an antispasmodic in the treatment for asthma, though this practice is extremely dangerous. The seeds are used in Tibetan medicine, they are said to have a bitter and acrid taste with a cooling and very poisonous potency. Analgesic, anthelmintic and anti-inflammatory, they are used in the treatment of stomach and intestinal pain due to worm infestation, toothache and fever from inflammations.
The growing plant is said to protect neighbouring plants from insects. The juice of the fruits is applied to the scalp to cure dandruff and falling hair.
Notes: Up to 30,000 seeds have been recorded from one plant. Seeds may remain dormant for many years. After seed-set the plant withers, leaving a skeleton from autumn to spring. Introduced to Australia in early 1800s. Weed of disturbed areas and summer crops.