Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Belladonna - the choice of Assassins

The Drug of Stealth Assassinations

Belladonna is an herbaceous plant that has had many uses since the Middle Ages.  Belladonna has been used throughout history as a weapon for stealth assassination. It’s been used as an agent in cosmetics, a weapon of war and murder weapon. It is rumored that Agrippina, Empress of Rome used Belladonna for murder, as did the Emperor Claudius. Marie Jeanneret, a Swiss nurse was convicted of the murder of seven patients in the mid-1800, using Belladonna as her weapon. There’s also Dr. Robert Buchanan who murdered his wife with morphine and put atropine, a Belladonna derivative, in her eyes to overcome the pinpoint often seen with morphine use.
Mass Murder Anyone?
Want to murder an army? Soak some arrows in a Belladonna solution and poison the opposing side. The enemy will suffer a long painful death. Supposedly, Duncan I who later became King Macbeth of Scotland, poisoned an entire army of Danes with liquor poisoned by Belladonna berries.  It’s also good in tea as the berries are sweet and the tea goes down easily. Yum, Belladonna tea, ladies?
More About the Plant
Belladonna’s leaves and roots are used to make medicine. The name “belladonna” means “beautiful lady,” and was chosen because belladonna berry juice was used in Italy to enlarge the pupils of women, giving them a striking appearance. This was not a good idea, because belladonna can be poisonous, but, nevertheless, the ladies were lovely as long as they lasted.
Belladonna is also one of the most toxic plants found in the world and often grows in our own back yards.  All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. The berries pose the greatest danger to children because they have a sweet taste and are easily mistaken for blueberries. The consumption of two to five berries by a human adult is lethal. The root of the plant is the most toxic part and ingestion of a single leaf can be fatal to an adult.
Belladonna is also toxic to many domestic animals, causing narcosis and paralysis. However, cattle and rabbits eat the plant without suffering harmful effects. In humans, its anticholinergic properties cause the disruption of cognitive capacities, such as memory and learning and people may convulse and seize from its effects

How does it work?

Belladonna has chemicals that can block functions of the body's nervous system particularly the parasympathetic nervous system.  It can cause dilated pupils and blurred, vision, an increased heart rate, loss of balance, great thirst, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions.

Spies, as well as taste-testers hired by kings to sample food to check for poison, learned that it’s possible to develop a tolerance to belladonna. One can become immune to its poisonous capabilities by taking small sips of a brew made from the plant over time. After a while a tolerance would build and an assassin could demonstrate a drink was safe to consume, while his victim would swallow the poison willingly and die. It is also quite tasty as a fermented beverage.
Medical Users of Belladonna

Though widely regarded as unsafe, belladonna is used as a sedative, to stop bronchial spasms in asthma and whooping cough, and as a cold and hay fever remedy.  It is also used for Parkinson's disease, colic, motion sickness, and as a painkiller.

Belladonna is used in ointments that are applied to the skin for joint pain (rheumatism), leg  pain caused by a disc in the backbone pushing on the sciatic nerve (sciatica), and nerve pain (neuralgia).  Belladonna is also used in plasters (medicine-filled gauze applied to the skin) for treating psychiatric disorders, a behavior disorder called hyperkinesis, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), and bronchial asthma.
So, if your next book, if you want to become a stealth assassin, consider a brew or Belladonna tea, or perhaps a taste of fermented Belladonna in cut glass crystal.
Yum, what a tasty way to go…and so easy!
Until next time,

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