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Jimson Weed


    Scientific Names

    Jimson Weed
    • Datura stramonium L.
    • Nightshade family

    Common Names

    ivyApple Peru
    ivyDevil’s apple
    ivyDevil’s trumpet
    ivyDhatura
    ivyFeng-ch’ieh-erh (Chinese name)
    ivyJamestown weed
    ivyJimpson weed
    ivyMad-apple
    ivyNightshade
    ivyPeru-apple
    ivyStinkweed
    ivyStinkwort
    ivyStramonium
    ivyThorn-apple
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    Parts Usually Used

    Leaves, root, seed
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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    A poisonous annual weed of the nightshade family, with foul-smelling leaves, prickly fruit, and white or purplish, trumpet-shaped or funnel-shaped flowers and is hallucinogenic. A large, whitish root produces the round, glabrous, yellowish-green, branching stem which grows 1-5 feet high. The leaves are alternate, dark green above and lighter beneath, ovate, and irregularly incised and toothed. The flowers are large, white, and showy; grow on short peduncles in the axils of the branches from June to September. The slightly spiraled blooms make this plant easy to identify. The four-parted, chambered, spiny seedpods are distinctive, too. The fruit is an ovate, prickly capsule containing many black seeds.

    Although this plant produces useful alkaloids, it is violently toxic.

    Another variety: Another plant (Datura meteloides) was known as Jimson Weed by the Native Americans. They made a tea of the plant to wash a horse with it when he tried to stray. They called the plant “Moip.” It has a heavy root, which when soaked, ground and boiled, the tea renders the drinker unconscious. The drinker has visions, but must be watched to prevent wandering off in search of some lost article.
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    Where Found

    Found in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. A fetid plant found in waste places, pastures, old fields, gardens, and roadsides. Usually found in sandy soil.
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    Medicinal Properties

    Anodyne, antispasmodic, hypnotic, narcotic.
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    Jimsonweed has an interesting history; it was/is used in witchcraft or wicca.

    It has been used for hallucinogenic and medicinal purposes since ancient times. The Greek priests of Apollo used it to produce prophecies. In 38 BC Antony’s soldiers ate some of the plant while retreating and became ridiculously incoherent. The plant’s name is derived from a similar incident involving soldiers in Jamestown in 1676. They too ate the plant and were good for little but clowning for eleven days. As a result, the plant came to be called Jamestown weed, which evolved into jimson weed.

    Its use was supposedly introduced to medieval Europe by gypsies who brought it from India. The gypsies smoked it to experience hallucinations. Because it also gives the sensation of flying and releases inhibitions, especially in women, jimson weed was associated in the Middle Ages with witchcraft, Witches inhaled its vapors while casting spells.

    Jimson weed has been taken for its narcotic and hallucinogenic effects by Native American tribes from the southwestern United States to South America. Many tribes used it to induce visions in priests, medicine men, and puberty rites. The Zuni and many California Indian tribes set broken bones after administering jimson weed as an anesthetic. The Mariposa Indians gave it to its women as an aphrodisiac.

    The name stinkweed refers to the narcotic odor which is unpleasant.

    The plant is gathered in the fall and slowly dried in the shade.
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    Uses

    Jimson weed is a dangerous plant in inexperienced hands, and an overdose is likely to be fatal.

    A tincture is sometimes given for spasmodic coughing, chronic laryngitis, a narcotic poison, mania, epilepsy, delirium tremens (DTs), typhus, and asthma. Externally, used for neuralgia, bruises, swellings,saddle sores on horses, rattlesnake bites, tarantula bites, and rheumatism. The leaves have been made into cigarettes for smokers with asthma and other respiratory problems. In South America, jimson weed is believed to be an aphrodisiac.

    The whole plant contains atropine and other alkaloids, used to dilate the pupils of the eyes; causes dry mouth, depresses bladder muscles, impedes action of the parasympathetic nerves; used in Parkinson’s disease; also contains scopolamine, used in patched behind the ear for vertigo. Folk cancer remedy.
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    Warning

    Violently toxic. Causes severe hallucinations. Many fatalities reported.

    Those who collect this plant may end up with swollen eyelids.

    Do not ingest any part of jimson weed. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza) has been suggested as an antidote.

    Keep this plant away from where children play. Do not use without medical supervision. An overdose may be fatal.
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    Bibliography

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

    Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature's Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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