Jimsonweed

Many plants have anticholinergic effects, including deadly nightshade, henbane, mandrake, burdock root, jimsonweed, and others. They are often used for medicinal purposes or brewed in teas. Datura stramonium, also known as jimsonweed, is a member of the Solanaceae family. It is a common weed that grows to be 3 to 6 ft high and can be found throughout the United States.14 Its leaves are large, jagged, and have a bitter taste and foul odor. The plant has large white or purple trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in the late spring and become thorny quadripartite capsules in the fall, filled with black seeds. The entire plant is toxic and contains atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine in various amounts. In the past, jimsonweed was marked and sold in health food stores in a preparation for the treatment of asthma. Many accidental childhood poisonings from jimsonweed have been reported. Over the past 20 to 30 years, jimsonweed has been involved in inadvertent overdoses in persons experimenting with mind-altering drugs. The plant can be smoked or ingested. Fifty to one hundred seeds contain the equivalent of 3 to 6 mg atropine.1,4

Symptoms of anticholinergic toxicity occur within 2 to 6 hr after the ingestion of jimsonweed. As with other agents causing anticholinergic toxicity, patients present with fever, erythema, mydriasis, delirium, hallucinations, tachycardia, and amnesia. The treatment is the same as that described earlier. Because the seeds may remain in the stomach for prolonged periods, whole-bowel irrigation is recommended up to 12 to 24 h after the ingestion of seeds. The most persistent symptom of jimsonweed toxicity is blurred vision, since mydriasis can persist for up to 1 week. Mydriasis also can occur from isolated local contact of jimsonweed with the eye ("cornpicker's pupil").8

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