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[top]Introduction to Atropine

Atropine is an alkaloid produced by the perennial Atropa belladonna, family Solanaceae. Commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade. Belladonna is a small shrub that produces bell-shaped flowers and shiny round black fruit.

[top]Using Atropine

[top]Ways of administration

Can be administered orally, intraocularly, intravenously or intramuscularly.

[top]Effects of Atropine

Two mnemonics, which apply to all anticholinergic drugs, from professors of mine include:

"Can't spit, shit, see or pee."
"Blind as a bat, hot as a hare, dry as a bone, mad as a hatter, red as a beet."

Through its anticholinergic activity, atropine:

  • Increases heart rate
  • Dries nasal and oral mucosa, as well as other secretions throughout the body, including preventing perspiration.
  • Dilates pupils and increases intraocular pressure
  • Slows the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract
  • Constricts smooth muscle around the urethra
  • Causes hallucinations

[top]Combinations with Atropine

Belladonna combined with opium is still used in suppositories to control diarrhea. This is one of the few remaining examples of whole herbs used in mainstream Western medicine.

[top]Different Uses for Atropine

Most often used for its effects on the heart, eyes, gastrointestinal tract. When administered as eyedrops, atropine causes mydriasis. The eyedrops may also be used sublingually to prevent drooling in terminally ill patients. To stop diarrhea, atropine may be taken orally or as a rectal suppository. To increase heart rate in an emergency situation, it is given intravenously.

Atropine is also used intravenously or intramuscularly as an antidote to organophosphate neurotoxins such as the insecticide Malathion and the chemical weapons VX and Sarin.

Rarely used recreationally (see below).

[top]Pharmacology of Atropine

[top]The dangers of Atropine

Small amounts of the plant can quickly cause death by respiratory or cardiac failure.

[top]Producing Atropine

A. belladonna is native to Europe, and is hardy in U.S. zones 6-9. Needs well-drained, alkaline soil in sun or partial shade. (2)

[top]Forms of Atropine

[top]Legal status of Atropine

[top]United Nations


By prescription only, not a controlled substance.


[top]History of Atropine

Used by women in the Middle Ages to dilate pupils. "Bella donna" is Italian and translates to "beautiful woman." Used supposedly by witches in Europe for its hallucinogenic properties, and in surgery for its sedative properties before modern anesthetics.

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1. Foster, S. and Johnson, R. L., eds. (2006) National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine. Washington, DC: National Geographic Press.

2. Bown, D. (2001) Encyclopedia of Herbs. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Inc.

Created by chibi curmudgeon Gold member, 08-12-2009 at 18:15
Last edited by NeuroChi , 16-06-2011 at 22:44
0 Comments, 17,162 Views

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