Datura stramonium

Taxonomy: Magnoliophyta (angiosperm), Magnoliopsida (dicot), Solanaceae
[Taxonomist disagree whether D. stramonium and D. inoxia are different species
.]

Common Names: Jimson Weed, Thornapple, Devil's Apple, Devil's Trumpet, Mad-apple, Nightshade, Peru-apple, Stinkweed, Stramonium, Datura, Toloache and Taguaro (Mayo, Mountain Pima, Opata, Spanish), Loco weed, Angel Trumpet, Chamiso (Spanish), Estramonio (Spanish).

 By Sara Alarcon and Alia Pinedo, Summer 2000

  Habitat
D. stramonium is naturalized to all four deserts of the American Southwest. Species of Datura can be found throughout the world, except in the colder or Artic regions. The plant lives in sandy flats, plains, arroyos up to 2,500 feet above sea level, and amidst disturbed soils. Jimson weed is commonly seen among roadsides in the Southwest.

Cultivation
Datura is easily cultivated, growing well in virtually any type of soil, but generally prefering slightly acidic and calcareous conditions. Seeds are sown in May, 12-15 inches apart, and kept free of weeds in the early stages.

  Description
Many branched, spreading, succulent, annual or perennial with large white to light purple tinged fragrant solitary flowers. Folage is dark green above, silvery grey below and foul smelling. Plants grow to a height of 2-4 feet and spread readily, commonly reaching a diameter of 4-6 feet.

 
Flowers are large and funnel-formed, corollas are at least 6 cm. long or longer and five-sectioned, growing in the forks of the stem. Stamens are 5 in number and free with one superior ovary.

 

Fruit is a large, four-valved ovate capsule, very thorny, containing numerous black to dark brown seeds.


Stems are simple, stout, and mostly erect. Leaves are large; approx. 20 cm. long, alternate sometimes opposite, oval-like, with a wavy and coarsely dentate margin.

Root is long, thick and tapering, it is somewhat branched in older plants, and fibrous.

 History and Folklore

The origin of D. stramonium is disputed (Curtain, 1947). The Sanskrit dhattura and the Hindustani dhatur formed the basis of the general name, the origin of Jimson weed could be Asiatic. Some sources report a probable Central American origin, due to Datura's habitation of most temperate and subtropical parts of the world. "The native names applied by ethnic groups appear to be based upon the deliriant effects produced by the plant on the nervous system" (Bye, Mata, and Pimentel 1991: 32-34). Throughout the ages, the Devil's Trumpet has been used for both intoxication and as medicine.

Historic use of Jimson weed and various other species of Datura has occurred for many purposes throughout time. In Europe the plant was used for witch craft, in salves or ointments. Throughout most European countries the seeds were used to brew beer (Shaman Australis Ethnobotanicals). In Mexico various tribes (i.e. Opata, Seri) used Toloache in religious rituals. The weed was dried and smoked, the users were left on a high which consisted of hallucinations and total relaxation. Jimson weed was thought to cure those with deafness, soothe insomniacs, and release the heat of those with a fever. D. stramonium is thought to be one of two plants identified in 4,000-year-old rock paintings throughout the Pecos river region of Texas and northern Mexico, used by the Huichol indians along with peyote to commune with the spirit world (Boyd and Dering,2000).

Hernandez (!959, 3:67) reported that the Aztecs applied a decoction of leaves to the body for fever or administerd as a suppository. The fruit and leaves were considered good for pain in the chest. If too much was taken, it was beleived to cause insanity. In northwester New Spain, the Opata rubbed a leaf of Taguaro on the painfual area for "spleen disease". They beleived it also matured tumors and abscesses (Nentuig [1764] 1977:62). An ointment of the ground seeds and suet is rubbed on boils, pimples, and swellings; the powdered leaves are applied to hemorroids; and hot baths containing the plant give relief to colds and diarrhea (Curtain,1947).

Medicinal Uses
D. stramonium is now used to treat asthma, and gastrointestinal problems, also aches, abscesses,arthritis, boils, headaches, hemorroids, rattlesnake bites, sprains, swellings, and tumors (Sandoval,1998). It acts as a sedative in large doses and as a stimulant and deleriant in high ones. Datura is an anodyne, antibiotic, antispasmodic and narcotic. Relieving the pains of rheumatism and sciatica when applied as an ointment, and easing spasms of Parkinsons disease are unproven accounts of the effects of Jimson weed.

Most of the plant is used for medicinal reasons. Eating the seeds rapidly gets the plant to the nervous system, but also increases the risk of lethal overdose. The leaves can be dried and smoked to relax the bronchiole muscles of the throat, and leaves are used also to line beds of those with insomnia. Annette Sandoval in Homegrown Healing recommends using the fresh leaves,flowers, or seeds. In an infusion, 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves per cup of hot water, or a poultice using any variation of the recommended parts.



Active Compounds
D. stramonium contains hyoscine, as well as atropine, hyoscyamine, apohyoscine, and meteloidine. Thus it is poisonous and hallucinogenic as well as acting as a pain killer (Duke 1985: 161-162).

Non-Medicinal Uses
D. stramonium (or innoxia) has been found to rapidly clear 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) from munition waste sites, and to transform it via nitroreduction. Other species of Datura might very well have similar properties as remediators of explosives (Lucero, Mueller, Hubstenberger, Phillips, and O'Connell. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol.-Plant 35:480-486, Nov.-Dec. 1999).

References

  • Kearney and Peebles. Arizona Flora. Univ. of California Press, Berkley, California. 1957.
  • Grieve and Leyel. A Modern Herbal. Johnathan Cape Ltd., London, 1931.
  • Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines. Medical Economics Co., Inc. Montvale, New Jersey. 1998.
  • Duke, James. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. CRC Press, Inc. Boca Raton, Florida. 1992.
  • Millspaugh, Charles. American Medical Plants. Dover Pub., Inc. New York, New York. 1974.
  • Sandoval, Annette. Homegrown Healing. The Berkely Pub. Group, New York, New York. 1998.
  • Curtin, L.S.M.. Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande. Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 1947.
  • King's American Dispensatory: Stramonium
  • Western Weeds
  • Shaman Australis Botanicals
  • Desert USA