Belladonna Properties

The Properties of Belladonna

Properties.—Officially the leaves are de scribed as " usually of a dull brownish-green color, the leaves much wrinkled and matted together, frequently with the flowering tops intermixed; leaves from 6 to 20 Cm. long, 4 to 12 Cm. broad, broadly ovate, apex acute, margin entire, narrowed into the petiole, upper surface brownish-green, lower surface grayish-green, epidermis more or less papillose, par ticularly on the under surface; odor distinctly narcotic, especially on moistening; taste somewhat bitter and acrid. The powder is characterized by few hairs and numerous, small, arrow-shaped crystals of calcium oxalate." U. S. " The transverse section of the leaf exhibits bi-collateral vascular bundles; the mesophyll contains numerous cells filled with very minute crystals of calcium oxalate." Br. The roots occur "in cylindrical or somewhat tapering, longitudinally wrinkled pieces, 1 to 2.5 Cm. thick, the bark somewhat incurved at the edges of roots which have been split before drying; externally pale brownish-gray, dusty or mealy, outer layers of the periderm rather soft, frequently abraded, and thus showing lighter patches; fracture nearly smooth, mealy, and emitting a characteristic puff of dust; internally whitish, the older roots showing medullary rays near the bark; nearly inodorous; taste sweetish, afterwards bitterish and strongly acrid. 

The powder contains relatively few sclerenchymatous fibres and numerous starch grains which are single or 2- to 3-compound, somewhat, spherical, and 0.005 to 0.010 Mm. in diameter." U. S. The bark of the belladonna root is thick, presenting immediately under the epidermis a dark line composed of from six to eight layers of tabular cells. The bark itself is composed entirely of parenchymatous cells, more or less filled with muller shaped starch grains, which are often united in the cells into compound grains. Bundles of raphides, probably of calcium oxalate, are usually very evident. In various parts of Europe both the leaves and the root of belladonna are adulterated with the similar products of a Phytolacca, which has been variously supposed to be the Phytolacca decandra of North America which has become naturalized in Southern Europe; the P. violacea of Southwestern Europe, ijid the P. abyssinica which is said to grow on the Riviera. The leaves and general appearance resemble those of belladonna but are to be recognized by their upper surfaces being without hairs and brighter than in the official plant. Moreover, according to E. M. Holmes, the epidermal cells of the true belladonna leaves are irregular, with sinuate walls, and the stomata are rounded; while epidermal cells in the phytolacca are polygonal and the stomata elliptical. The dried phytolacca root resembles superficially that of belladonna, but according to E. M. Holmes may readily be distinguished by the epidermis not being easily abraded with the finger nail, by the general concentric structure, and by the fact that the rings readily separate into fibrous lamina? when the root is broken, the true belladonna root having a short, not at all fibrous, fracture, and even in the oldest roots not separating into lamina. 

The histology of the phytolacca root is also, according to Greenish, characteristic; the raphides are acicular instead of being, as in belladonna, sandy crystals, and the root itself is generally characterized by the alternating distinctly separate rings of wood and bast tissue. Scopola root, which is now official, has been largely used by manufacturers of belladonna plasters in the place of belladonna root (see Scopola.) Hirtz of Strasburg, inferred from his experiments that the root yields an extract five times stronger than that obtained from the leaves, but did not determine the relative yield of extract, while Lefort obtained from young roots 0.6, from old roots 0.25, and from dried leaves 0.44 per cent, of atropine; Dragendorff obtained 0.66 from dried leaves, and 0.4 per cent, from the roots. (Jahresb., 1874, p. 96.) Both the leaves and root, as well as all other parts of the plant, impart their active properties to water and alcohol. Brandes rendered it probable that these properties reside in a peculiar alkaline principle which he supposed to exist in the plant combined with an excess of malic acid and appropriately named atropine. Besides atropine malate, Brandes found in the dried herb two principles, a green resin (chlorophyll), wax, gum, starch, albumen, lignin, and various salts. The alkaloidal principle was first, however, procured in a state of purity by Mein, a German apothecary, who extracted it from the root. Ladenburg (1879 to 1884) exhaustively studied the several sources of atropine and the allied alkaloids that exert a mydriatic action. 

It is now recognized that there are two alkaloids, atropine and hyoscyamine, hyoscine or scopolamine, and in belladonna root, belladonine. Of these, atropine occurs in the Atropa Belladonna and in Datura Stramonium, hyoscyamine in these plants and also in Hyoscyamus niger and Duboisia myoporoides; hyoscine is found in Hyoscyamus niger (and under the name of scopolamine in Scopola carniolica), and belladonine in belladonna root alone. The first of the alkaloids of atropine, fuses when pure at 115.8° C. (240.4° F.), and forms a double gold chloride, fusing at 135° C. to 137° C. (275° P. to 278.6° P.); the second, the alkaloid known under the several names of hyoscyamine and daturine, fuses at 108.5° C. (227.5° P.), and yields a gold salt fusing at 160° C. to 162° C. (320° P. to 323.6° P.); on the other hand hyoscine, has been obtained as yet only in the form of a syrup, but forms a crystalline gold salt, which fuses at 198° C. to 200° C. (388.4° P. to 392° F.), and is less soluble than the hyoscyamine gold salt; hyoscine forms readily erystallizable salts, especially the hydrobromide. In Duboisia myoporoides (see PART II) the chief alkaloid present seems to be the second of these, and the complete identity of it with the purified alkaloid of hyoscyamus has been established by Ladenburg, both by analysis of the free alkaloid and its salts, and by study of the action of different reagents upon it. 

Hyoscyamine is more soluble in water and diluted alcohol than is atropine, and, as already stated, forms a gold salt of different fusing point. Its decomposition products under the influence of caustic baryta or hydrochloric acid are the same as those of atropine,—viz., tropine and tropic acid. Hiibschmann (Schweis. Zeits. Pharm., 1858, 123) and Kraut (Ann. Ch. Ph., 148, 236) both described, under the name of belladonine, a second alkaloid extracted from belladonna root. This belladonine and another alkaloid, atropamine, found at times in belladonna root, and obtained from the byproducts of the manufacture of atropine, possess the formula CirHsi NOs, and are considered as anhydroatropines. Both bases form varnish-like masses. Merck has isolated a base isomeric with Hesse's atropamine, which has been termed apoatropine, the salts of which are easily erystallizable. He asserts that atropamine and apoatropine are identical. Hesse, on the other hand, denies this assertion. (Ann. Ch. Ph., 271, 10.) Por the mode of preparing atropine, and its properties, see Atropina, page 212. Dunstan and Ransom have devised processes for isolating the alkaloids from the root and leaves which they assert are simple and accurate. (See A. J. P., 1884, 277; Proc. A. Ph. A., 1886, 392.) A. W. Adams states that only 53 per cent, of the atropine in belladonna leaves can be separated by these processes. (Am. Drug., 1891, 328.) Por other assays of belladonna leaves and root, and comments, see Schwickerath (Ph. Eund., 1893, 282); Keller (Ph. Ztg., 1894, 345); Moerk (A. J. P., 1899, 105); La Wall and Pursell (A. J. P., 1899, 394); Puckner (Ph. Rev., 1898, 180, 324; 1902, 457); Bird, (P. J., 1900, 195); Keb- Jar (Am. Druff., 1902., 215); Schmidt (Ap. Ztg., 1900, 13.)

Taken from...

The Dispensatory Of The United States Of America
By Dr. Geo. B.Wood And Dr. Franklin Bache.
Nineteenth Edition.
Thoroughly Revised, Largely Rewritten, And Based Upon The Eighth Decennial Revision Of The United States Pharmacopoeia Issued June 1, 1907.
Philadelphia And London
J.B. Lippincott Company