Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are known as angel's trumpets, sometimes sharing that name with the closely related genus Brugmansia, and commonly known as daturas. They are also sometimes called moonflowers, one of several plant species to be so.
All species of Datura are poisonous, especially their seeds and flowers.
Colors vary from white to yellow, pink, and pale purple. The fruit is a spiny capsule 4–10 cm long and 2–6 cm broad, splitting open when ripe to release the numerous seeds. The seeds disperse freely over pastures, fields and even wasteland locations.
Datura belongs to the classic "witches' weeds", along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants are toxic, and datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of potions and witches' brews.
All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. Because of the presence of these substances, Datura has been used for centuries in some cultures as a poison. There can be a 5:1 toxin variation between plants, and a given plant's toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions. These variations makes Datura exceptionally hazardous as a drug.
Datura toxins may be ingested accidentally by consumption of honey produced by several wasp species, including Brachygastra lecheguana, during the Datura blooming season. It appears that these semi-domesticated honey wasps collect Datura nectar for honey production which can lead to poisoning.
In some parts of Europe and India, Datura has been a popular poison for suicide and murder. From 1950 to 1965, the State Chemical Laboratories in Agra, India, investigated 2,778 deaths caused by ingesting Datura.
In some places, it is prohibited to buy, sell, or cultivate Datura plants.
Effects of ingestion
Due to the potent combination of anticholinergic substances it contains, Datura intoxication typically produces effects similar to that of an anticholinergic delirium (usually involving a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy); hyperthermia; tachycardia; bizarre, and possibly violent behavior; and severe mydriasis (dilated pupils) with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect.
In Pharmacology and Abuse of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Related Designer Drugs, Freye asserts: Few substances have received as many severely negative recreational experience reports as has Datura. The overwhelming majority of those who describe their use of Datura find their experiences extremely unpleasant both mentally and often physically dangerous.
Due to their agitated behavior and confused mental state, victims of Datura poisoning are typically hospitalized. Stomach pumping and the administration of activated charcoal can be used to reduce the stomach's absorption of the ingested material. The drug physostigmine is used to reverse the effect of the poisons.
Benzodiazepines can be given to curb the patient's agitation, and supportive care with oxygen, hydration, and symptomatic treatment is often provided.
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