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Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation

Jimsonweed*


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Jimsonweed

Scientific Name:

Datura stramonium

Botanical Family:

Solanaceae

Other Common Name:

Jamestown weed*, Mad apple, Moon flower, Sacred datura, Stramonium, Thorn Apple (Quattrocchi, 2012; White, 2003).

* Two of the plant’s common names, “Jamestown weed” and “Jimsonweed” originated from an event that occurred in Jamestown, Virginia, where a group of British soldiers was intoxicated with this plant in 1676.

Common names in Spanish:

Berenjena del Diablo, Chamico, Higuera del Diablo, Toloátzin, Estramonio (Quattrocchi, 2012; White, 2003; Berdonces, 2015).

Where is it found?

This plant is probably native to Eastern North America, but is now found, along with other species of the genus Datura, in many countries around the world (Schultes et al., 2001; Ma et al., 2015; Mabberley, 2008).

Jimsonweed is an annual plant that inhabits waste places and abandoned fields, usually near streams or “arroyos” (Kanchan and Atreya, 2016; Valverde et al., 2003).

Parts of the plant used:

The whole plant, especially the leaves, flowers, and seeds (Ratsch, 2005).

How is it used?

The leaves can be dried and rolled to make cigarettes. The leaves and seeds are sometimes dried, pulverized, and ignited in order to breathe the fumes for the treatment of asthma. The leaves and seeds are decocted in water to make a tea, but this practice is very dangerous (Ratsch, 2005; Berdonces, 2015).

What is it used for?

Cigarettes made from this plant and other herbs have been smoked to treat bronchial asthma, but the risks of intoxication far outweigh any benefits. Despite their known toxicity, various Datura species have been employed in the traditional healing practices in many countries, including China and Tibet, for the treatment of bronchial asthma, rheumatism, inflammation, and to diminish pain (Mai et al., 2017; Ma et al., 2015; Ratsch, 2005; Berdonces, 2015).

Additionally, these plants have been used for centuries in complex religious rituals and witchcraft, due to their hallucinogenic properties, especially by various indigenous tribes in North America (Schultes et al., 2001). Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the inherent dangers related to these practices (Ratsch, 2005; Alhaj, 2006; Krenzelok, 2010; Berdonces, 2015; Kanchan and Atreya, 2016; Fu et al., 2017; Graziano et al., 2017).

Experiments undertaken in animals with various species of Datura have shown that these plants have medicinal properties for the prospective treatment of diabetes and other diseases (Krishna Murthy et al., 2004), as well as a source of atropine, an alkaloid that is used in the treatment of organophosphate insecticide toxicity (Mittal et al., 2016). Certain Datura species produce compounds known as withanolides, that have shown anti-proliferative (impede cell division), as well as anti-inflammatory activities that could be useful for the treatment of cancer and other diseases (Yang et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2014).

Even though certain medicinal uses have been reported for Jimson weed, there are also certain serious neurological effects including hallucinations, memory loss, and anxiety, associated with its ingestion. A study found that alkaloid extracts from the leaves and fruits induced alterations of activities of critical enzymes of purinergic signaling, which suggested this could be one the mechanisms responsible for its neurological effects (Ademiluyi et al., 2016).

Two closely related genera within the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, Datura (“Jimson weed”, “Toloache”, and “Tornaloco”), as well as Brugmansia (“Trumpetflower”, “Borrachero”, “Floripondio”) may possess potential medicinal value, but should never be used for home remedies or for inebriation as “recreational drugs”, since both of these practices can prove to be lethal (Schultes et al., 2001; Ratsch, 2005; Alhaj, 2006; Graziani et al., 2017).

Safety / Precautions

  • Jimson weed or Toloache (D. stramonium) and other related species have been used as a “recreational” drug for their hallucinogenic properties, a practice that is very dangerous and could be deadly (De Witt et al., 1997; Alhaj, 2006; Krenzelok, 2010; Berdonces, 2015; Kanchan and Atreya, 2016).
  • All parts of the plant are dangerous due to their content of tropane alkaloids such as atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine (hyoscine). However, the seeds constitute the most toxic part (Boumba et al., 2004; Ratsch, 2005; Krenzelok, 2010; Berdonces, 2015).
  • There is a case on record of a patient exhibiting acute anticholinergic syndrome (dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, hyperthermia, and dilation of the pupil) from ingestion of lime tea accidentally mixed with another Datura species (D. innoxia), which contains some of the same alkaloids as jimsonweed (Pekdemir et al., 2004).
  • Several cases of severe and sometimes fatal intoxications  have been recorded throughout the world in both humans and animals, due to voluntary or accidental ingestion of various species belonging of Datura (Berdonces, 2015; Cortinovis and Caloni, 2015; Wagstaff, 2008).
  • Some of the symptoms in affected individuals include hallucinations and confusion, dilation of the pupil, flushing, dry mouth, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and elevated body temperature (Özkaya et al., 2015; Krenzelok, 2010; Alhaj, 2006).
  • This and other mind-altering plants should be suspected in patients presenting altered mental status, agitation and hallucinations, as well as the anticholinergic symptoms mentoned above (DeWitt et al., 1997; Kanchan and Atreya, 2016; Özkaya et al., 2015; Glatstein et al., 2012; Krenzelok, 2010; Alhaj, 2006; Pekdemir et al., 2004).
  • The treatment for Jimsonweed intoxication is mainly supportive, including gastrointestinal decontamination with activated charcoal. Benzodiazepines may be use to control agitation. Physostigmine is usually applied as an antidote (Glatstein et al., 2012; Salen et al., 2013), but it should be used with caution, as it may cause secondary effects such as hypotension (low blood pressure), bradycardia, and convulsions, among other effects (Kanchan and Atreya, 2016; Krenzelok, 2010).
  • Each species of Datura varies in the concentrations of alkaloids and other active substances. For this reason, it is very important for individuals, especially young people, to be aware of the toxicity and potential risks associated with the “recreational” use of these plants (Alhaj, 2006; Krenzelok, 2010; Glatstein et al., 2012; Melvin and Hourani, 2014).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-medication: Always be on the safe side!

References:

Ademiluyi AO, Ogunsuyi OB, Oboh G. Alkaloid extracts from Jimson weed (Datura
stramonium L.) modulate purinergic enzymes in rat brain. Neurotoxicology. 2016; 56:107-117.
doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2016.06.012.

Alhaj AJ. Altered Mental Status Fun or Poison! - El Paso County Medical Society; 2006.
https://www.epcms.com/uploadedFiles/El_Paso_County_Medical_Society/Volume%2032Numb
er4a2.pdf. Accessed July 9, 2017.

Berdonces JL. Guia de Plantas Psicoactivas: Historia, Usos y Aplicaciones.
Barcelona: Ediciones Invisibles; 2015; pp. 79-81.

Boumba VA, Mitselou A, Vougiouklakis T. Fatal poisoning from ingestion of Datura
stramonium seeds.Vet Hum Toxicol. 2004 ; 46(2):81-2.

Carod-Artal FJ. Neurological Effects Caused by the Ingestion of Plants, Seeds, and Fruits
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282595266_Adverse_Neurological_Effects_Caused
by_the_Ingestion of Plants_Seeds_and_Fruits Rev Neurol. 2003; 36 (9): 860-871. Accessed July
10, 2017.

Cortinovis C, Caloni F. Alkaloid-Containing Plants Poisonous to Cattle and Horses in Europe.
Toxins (Basel). 2015; 8;7(12):5301-7. doi: 10.3390/toxins7124884.

Dewitt MS, Swain R, Gibson LB Jr. The dangers of jimson weed and its abuse by teenagers in
the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. W V Med J. 1997;93(4):182-185.

Fu Y, Si Z, Li P, Li M, Zhao H, Jiang L, Xing Y, Hong W, Ruan L, Wang JS. Acute
psychoactive and toxic effects of D. metel on mice explained by 1H NMR based metabolomics
approach. Metab Brain Dis. 2017. doi: 10.1007/s11011-017-0038-9. [Epub ahead of print]

Glatstein MM, Alabdulrazzaq F, Garcia-Bournissen F, Scolnik D. Use of physostigmine for
hallucinogenic plant poisoning in a teenager: case report and review of the literature.Am J Ther.
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Graziano S, Orsolini L, Rotolo MC, Tittarelli R, Schifano F, Pichini S. Herbal Highs: Review on
Psychoactive Effects and Neuropharmacology. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2017; 15(5):750-761. doi:
10.2174/1570159X14666161031144427.

Kanchan T, Atreya A. Datura: The Roadside Poison.
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Krishna Murthy B, Nammi S, Kota MK, Krishna Rao RV, Koteswara Rao N, Annapurna A.
Evaluation of hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic effects of Datura metel (Linn.) seeds in
normal and alloxan-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004; 91(1):95-8.

Ma L, Gu R, Tang L, Chen ZE, Di R, Long C. Important poisonous plants in Tibetan
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Mai NT, Cuc NT, Anh HL, Nhiem NX, Tai BH, Minh CV, Quang TH, Kim KW, Kim YC, Oh
H, Kiem PV. Steroidal saponins from Datura metel. Steroids. 2017;121:1-9. doi:
10.1016/j.steroids.2017.02.002. .

Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; pp

Melvin K, Hourani D. Datura stramonium toxicity mistakenly diagnosed as "bath salt"
intoxication: a case report. W V Med J. 2014; 110(1):22-5.

Mittal G, Kumar N, Rawat H, Jaimini A, Chhillar M, Bhatnagar A. Development and clinical
study of submicronic-atropine sulphate respiratory fluid as a novel organophosphorous poisoning
antidote. Drug Deliv. 2016 ;23(7):2255-2261.

Özkaya AK, Güler E, Karabel N, Namlı AR, Göksügür Y. Datura stramonium poisoning in a
child. Turk J Pediatr. 2015;57(1):82-4.

Pekdemir M, Yanturali S, Akay S, Alagoz G. Acute anticholinergic syndrome due to Datura
innoxia Miller mixed with lime tea leaves. Vet Hum Toxicol. 2004;46(4):176-7.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants (Vol. 1).
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012.

Ratsch C. Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants.
Rochester, VT: Park Street Press; 2005.

Salen P, Shih R, Sierzenski P, Reed J. Effect of physostigmine and gastric lavage in a Datura
stramonium-induced anticholinergic poisoning epidemic. Am J Emerg Med. 2003; 21(4):316-7.

Schultes RE, Hofmann A, Ratsch C. Plants of the Gods 2nd ed.
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Valverde PL, Fornoni J, Nunez-Farfan J. Evolutionary ecology of Datura stramonium: equal
plant fitness benefits of growth and resistance against herbivory. Journal of Evolutionary
Biology; 2003;16:127–137 DOI 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2003.00482.x.

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Yang BY, Guo R, Li T, Wu JJ, Zhang J, Liu Y, Wang QH, Kuang HX. New anti-inflammatory
withanolides from the leaves of Datura metel L. Steroids. 2014 ;87:26-34. doi:
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Zhang H, Cao CM, Gallagher RJ, Timmermann BN. Antiproliferative withanolides from several
solanaceous species. Nat Prod Res. 2014; 28(22):1941-51. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2014.919286.