The classical Old World members of Solanaceae are plants like deadly nightshade (belladonna), datura, mandrake, angel's trumpet and henbane; these are famously the plants of Hecate and the occult. They are striking examples of the weird intersection of the toxic, the medicinal and the religious that characterize our relationship with plants, and of the thin line between the altered states of revelation and transcendent experience and those of poisoning and death. These plants inherit their toxicity from a group of compounds called tropane alkaloids, specifically atropine (after Atropos, the oldest of the Three Fates and the one who snips the thread of life), scopalamine and hyoscyamine. These alkaloids reduce the activity of acetylcholine, one of the brain's primary neuromodulators, by competing with it to lock onto neural receptors (and hence are called anticholinergics). . . .
Monday, July 16, 2012
Solanaceae: the Nightshade Family
explores the Nightshade family of plants: