Belladonna can grow up to 6ft in height and the bell-shaped flowers are dull purple with green tinges and faintly scented, and is has shiny, black berries. Part of the nightshade family, along with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco, and chili peppers, the common names for this species include belladonna, deadly nightshade, banewort, and devil's berries.
The name "belladonna" comes from Italian language, "beautiful lady" and probably refers to its usage in cosmetics for the face or, more probably, from its usage to increase the pupil size, which women did to make themselves more attractive.
Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found in the Eastern Hemisphere. If eaten, it can cause complications of pregnancy, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and psychiatric disorders, among others. All parts of the plant are poisonous, roots containing the highest amount, followed by the leaves when the plant is budding and flowering. The honey produced by bees feeding on Belladonna nectar can also contain poison. However, the berries pose the greatest danger to children because they look attractive and have a somewhat sweet taste.
Symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, severely dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions. The plant's deadly symptoms are caused by disruption of the parasympathetic nervous system's ability to regulate involuntary activities, such as sweating, breathing, and heart rate.
Belladonna is also toxic to many domestic animals, causing narcosis and paralysis. However, cattle and rabbits eat the plant seemingly without suffering harmful effects.
In the past, witches were believed to use a mixture of belladonna, opium poppy and other plants, typically poisonous (such as monkshood and poison hemlock) to make an ointment which they applied to help them fly.
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