Remember kids, the most toxic plants are often the most innocent-looking and alluring. Datura is a girly sweet-floral, but its other names give away its true nature (Devil’s Trumpets, Hell’s Bells, Poisoned Moon Flower).
Datura, as with most of its Nightshade sisters, holds its poison in both its seeds and blossoms. The most likely cause of accidental human ingestion is through tainted honey created from bees collecting poisoned pollen. However, most ingestion is not accidental as Datura contains tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine. In small doses, these can cause euphoric hallucinations. However, the dosage is determined by the environmental conditions and it is impossible to control outside of a lab.
So those looking for a sweet smelling trip are often left with anticholinergic delirium (you’re unable to tell reality from the hallucinogenic hellscape of your mind), elevated body temperature and heart beat, and hyperdilation of the pupils that makes light painful and can damage the retinas. Finally, Datura poisoning induces bizarre and violent behaviour that can cause one to harm oneself or even death.
As such, Datura was a Medieval poison given to bring on “madness” that in turn may harm or kill the receiver. It was considered a particularly nefarious poison before modern toxicology because the behaviours a Datura sufferer may display could be mistaken in centuries past for anything from Schizophrenia to demon possession, to Rabies. It is also an essential ingredient in Caribbean and North American preparations of the fabled Zombi Powder. Real Zombi Powder is the toxic concoction of ingredients that causes victims severe brain damage and delirium. In this altered state, they are convinced that they are, in fact, dead and enslaved to their poisoner through magical means.
If its actual toxic uses were not notorious enough, its Mideavel reputation as a “witch weed” meant those growing the lovely ornamental might have it presented as evidence against them in a charge of witchcraft. It is listed in several Witch Hunting manuals of the 17th century as essential to the ointment rubbed on witch’s brooms to make them fly. We even see a slight nod to a Datura ointment in modern literature with Azazello’s flying cream from the classic, The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.
Paradoxically, these dangerous blossoms once distilled into fragrant oil are harmless to wear on the skin as the toxic elements are filtered out in the distillation process. Datura gives perfumes a bright girly floral freshness, but with a certain incomprehensible edge under all that syrup. Just a sweet little reminder that dangerous things often come in alluring packages.You can find Datura in:
Nina Ricci Just about ever Nina Ricci scent has featured Datura including Nina Pop, Nina Prestige, Ricci Ricci, and Nina
Poeme by Lancome
Freak by Illamasqua
Little Black Dress by Avon
Mon Paris by YSL
Moonflower by MCMC Fragrances
Fatale Pink by Agent Provocateur
In Greece older people especially enjoy foraging into the woods for dandelions and other fragrant edible wild greens. Several years ago someone harvested datura leaves along with the other plants and boiled them into a deadly salad. The entire family was wiped out or, as we say in Greece, they were sent to watch the dandelions grow upside-down
I never thought about it but that must happen. Most of the accidental ingestions I’ve read about were teenagers wanting to get high, small kids, or pets, but I can see how the leaf would look like a dandelion leaf.
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