Atropa belladonna is a perennial branching herb growing to 5 feet tall, with 8 inch long ovate leaves. The leaves in first-year Atropa belladonna plants are larger than those of older plants. The flowers are bell-shaped, blue-purple or dull red, followed by a shiny, black or purple 0.5 inch berry. Native of Europe and Asia.
Atropa Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade, Witches Berry) was used in witchcraft, being equated with aggressive female sexuality and feelings of flight. It has been suggested that the ointment made from the plant may have been inserted into the vagina with an anointed broom or staff, where it was absorbed by the body, thus accounting for the common image of witches flying on brooms. The active chemical, Atropine, is used in medicinal drugs today.
In earlier times in Italy, women used extracts of Atropa belladonna to dialate their eyes for cosmetic purposes; such use explains the origin of the common name (Italian, "beautiful woman"). Belladonna was also an important ingredient in Witches brew during the Middle ages, often being equated with aggressive female sexuality. A flying ointment salve was made from this plant along with others, and rubbed on the bodies of womenExperiments have shown that the subjective sensation of flight was a common theme with subjects under the influence of solanaceous compounds, not unlike what was reportedly experienced by witches.
Common Names: Deadly Nightshade, Dwale, Death's Herb, Witch's Berry