SEVERAL species of Datura, closely resembling the officinal thorn-apple in external characters and physiological action, have been long known as poisons and used as remedies in the East-Indies, where they are indigenous. But the European officinal species was first introduced into medicine, along with other narcotic vegetables, by Stb'rck in 1762. The Dios-corides, supposed by some to be at least a species of Datura, does not cor-, respond, according to his description, with any known plant of the genus.
Natural History.—The Datura Stramonium belongs to the Lmneeaa class and order Pentandria Monogynia, and to the Natural family Solanaceae. Its native country is unknown. It is met with in various parts of Asia, and apparently wild on rubbish,roadsides and fields throughout most of Europe, and even also in North America. Fuchs, one of the first European authors who mentions and figures the plant, says in 1542 that it was .introduced into Germany from Italy and about the close of the same century Gerard tells us that it was introduced by himself through Lord Zouch from Constantinople into England, where it now occurs in various parts of the country as if indigenous. It is an herbaceous annual, towards three feet in height, with a leafy, branchy stem, large, ovate, sinuous, deeply-cut leaves, and long, white, axillary, trumpet-shaped flowers, which appear in July and August. The flowers are succeeded by a capsule, about the size of a hen's egg, covered with long prickles, four-celled, and filled with numerous brownish-black, rough, flat, reniform seeds, somewhat less than a lupin. Almost every part of the plant has been used medicinally, such as the leaves, twigs, seeds and roots. But the true officinal parts are the leaves and seeds. The leaves are gathered when the flowers are full-blown. They have a heavy odour when fresh, and more especially while drying, and their taste is mawkish, rather bitter and nauseous. The seeds sometimes fail to ripen in this climate, and are then pale grayish-brown. When ripe they are brownish-black, feebly bitter and mawkish 'to the taste, but without odour unless they be bruised, when they emit the peculiar heavy odour of the herb.
Chemical History.—Both seeds arid leaves yield their active properties to water, spirit, and fixed oils. Water is used by the English and Irish Colleges for obtaining the Extractum stramonii from the seeds; but proof-spirit, re-commended by the Edinburgh College, is a better menstruum for the purpose, because the active part of stramonium, like that of other solanaceons narcotics, is partly decomposed by the prolonged heat required for an aqueous extract. The watery extract amounts to an eighth, the spirituous extract to a seventh, of, the weight of the seeds. A tincture of the seeds, a good officinal form, which has been adopted in the United States Pharmacopoeia, is prepared with one ounce troy of seeds to eight fluidounces of proof-spirit. Fixed oil may be impregnated with the properties of the plant by heating the leaves in it ; and in this way is prepared a liniment of anodyne virtues, which is used in some parts of Germany.—The analysis and composition of Stramonium have been investigated by Promnitz, by Brandes, and by Geiger and Hesse. Prom-nitz examined the leaves without any important result. Brandes found in the seeds fixed oil, resin, gum, extractive, lignin, phyteumaeol, albumen, various " salts and an active principle which he called Daturin, but which no other che- .-mist could obtain by his process. In 1833 Geiger and Hesse obtained the-true Daturia by exhausting thejsruised seeds with boiling rectified-spirit, and then proceeding a,s for the active principle of hyoscyamus. It is. crystalline, without odour, of a bitterish, tobacco-like taste, alkaline in its reactions, par-tially volatilizable at a moderate heat, not volatilizable when boiled in water, ( sparingly soluble in water, except at a boiling temperature, more so in ether, easily soluble in alcohol, and capable of forming crystalline salts with acids. Its constitution is unknown.—Stramonium is one of the narcotic vegetables in which Dr. Morries obtained by destructive distillation a poisonous oil, com-posed of an inert true oil in union with an active principle, probably a modi-fication of Daturia.
Actions and Uses.—The leaves and seeds of stramonium are powerfully narcotic in large doses, and produce nearly the same effects as henbane and belladonna,—that is, at first, dryness of the throat and delirium, or a state like somnambulism, and afterwards profound coma, with dilated pupils, and some-times convulsions. One hundred seeds have proved fatal to a child of two years, in twenty-four hours. It is said to be us'ed as* a poison in the East for various nefarious purposes, and'in Russia, for increasing the intoxicating effects of beer. The physiological action of medicinal doses is not so weH understood. But it seems to be, like hyoscyamus, an anodyne and antispas-modic, to act in this way without constipating the bowels, and to be sometimes serviceable where opium does not answer. Itis.a doubtful hypnotic, except simply through means of its anodyne action. It sometimes causes nausea, and generally a peculiar indescribable sensation in the head.—It has been used both inwardly and outwardly, for allaying the pain of chronic rheumatism and neuralgia, and undoubtedly, at times, with good effect (Marcet, Begbie). Some have recommended it internally as a calmative in mania and epilepsy (Storck). The chief application of it, however, in recent times, has been the method, in-troduced from India, of inhaling its smoke as a remedy for the asthmatic paroxysm, and the fits of dyspnoaa which occur in emphysema of the lungs, and organic diseases of the heart. It is often serviceable in these affections, but loses its effect by frequent use. It must be given with caution; for too large doses are dangerous. The effects of the herb in the form of smoke, are easily intelligible, on considering the observations of Dr. Morries, on the pro-perties of the empyreumatic oil, and those of Geiger, on the effects of heat upon Daturia. This method of using stramonium must have been known at an early period in Europe; for in 1542, Fuchs mentions that its vernacular name in Germany, was Rauch-apfelkraut (Smoke-applewort).