How Poisonous Is Nightshade? | Helpful Toxicity Guide

Chances are, if you are on this blog post, you are wondering and wanting to answer the question, “how poisonous is nightshade?” Well, in this guide, we will be breaking down just that and also looking at:

  • what this plant is
  • how toxic it is
  • how it kills you
  • how much is fatal

Table of Contents

What Is Deadly Nightshade?

Atropa Belladonna

The plant often referred to as deadly nightshade is the Atropa Belladonna plant. The plant has a storied history that goes back centuries and can be seen in folklore and historical texts.

Its toxic and deadly effects have been known and used throughout history for nefarious purposes. It has been used by ordinary people and royalty to poison each other. It has even been used by warring armies against each other. The Scotts spiked their Dame enemies beer with it. This resulted in the Dame army becoming vulnerable to attack.

This plant’s history is stained with death and dying, and this dark history should stand as a warning to curious users looking to experiment with this psychoactive plant. This is not the plant you want to try and get high from.

For more information on the hallucinatory and psychoactive effects of this plant, check out:

Atropa Belladonna Psychedelic & Hallucination Guide

How Poisonous Is Nightshade?

The deadly nightshade plant is very poisonous and contains two very poisonous alkaloid substances within its leaves, roots, and berries. Atropine and Solanine are two very toxic substances when safe limits are exceeded and can quickly lead to dangerous side effects, including death.

Each of these compounds on their own poses a significant poisoning risk but considering they are both found within the nightshade plant, it increases the poisoning risk significantly.

This plant is considered to be very dangerous and should never be ingested unless directed to do so by your doctor. Experimenting with this highly toxic plant for its psychoactive effects is extremely dangerous. It will most likely end up causing significant harm to the user, many side effects, and even death.

How Does Deadly Nightshade Kill You?

abstract image of grim reaper standing over field of deadly nightshade
This is an artistic representation we made that depicts the grim reaper standing in a field of deadly nightshade.

The plant contains several toxic alkaloid compounds, the first of which is hyoscyamine. The hyoscyamine gets converted into Atropine, usually when the plant is dried. Atropine is a potent anticholinergic substance used in medicine due to its powerful central nervous system effects.

The Atropine in excess amounts that are obtained by ingesting deadly nightshade kills. The primary way in which Atropine from the deadly nightshade plant cause death is by causing respiratory paralysis. This paralysis of the respiratory system causes the user to stop breathing, and the lack of oxygen to the brain and vital organs ultimately leads to death.

The typical therapeutic dose of Atropine for medical purposes is 0.5 to 2mg. The problem with ingesting a plant that contains Atropine is you do not know the exact quantity of this drug you are getting, so the risk of Atropine overdose is very high. Below are some common signs of Atropine overdose.

  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • tachycardia
  • bradypnea
  • syncope
  • seizure
  • coma

The second of the two toxic alkaloid compounds is Solanine. Solanine is very toxic, and even when small amounts are ingested, it can lead to severe poisoning and even death. The toxic dose of Solanine is said to be 2 to 5mg per kilogram of body weight. A fatal dosage is said to be 3 to 6mg per kilogram of body weight.

As you can see from the two main toxic compounds, this plant has a deadly poisonous combination. Either of these two toxic alkaloid compounds can kill a person all by itself, but when combined, they pose a significantly increased risk and danger.

If you have ingested this plant, you should seek medical help, especially if you begin to display these symptoms.

How Much Nightshade Is Deadly?

Rusty old poison sign

The lethal dosage of nightshade is different for everyone because everyone’s weight, metabolism, liver, and renal function are all different. Based on the literature, it is said that a dose of 10 or more berries is lethal to adults, and amounts as little as 2 to 3 berries can be fatal for kids. (Vonarburg 1996, 62)

Another variable that can impact the amount of the plant needed to be fatal is the amount of alkaloids found within the plant. The amount of active compounds within the plant can vary significantly from plant to plant and year to year because of different soil nutrient levels and growing environmental factors.

There is no accurate lethal dosage information for the leaves and roots. The only information we could find was the recommended dry weight used to produce a pleasant high. Below are the dosages used to obtain an optimal high or psychoactive effect without pronounced side effects.

  • 30 to 200 mg of dried leaves
  • 30 to 120 mg of dried roots

A safe assumption would be that any dosage above these would produce adverse side effects and possible death.

There are also reports of people reacting very badly to tiny doses of nightshade, so even though most people will be fine with the above dosages, you might not, and it could prove fatal.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this nightshade poisoning and toxicity guide, you will understand better the dangers and risks associated with this plant. It is not a plant to experiment with and should be respected for its ability to cause potential poisoning and even death.

Remember this is not medical advice, and you should always consult your doctor before consuming any plant or psychoactive substance.

References

  1. Atropa belladonna – Wikipedia
  2. Common anticholinergic solanaceaous plants of temperate Europe – A review of intoxications from the literature (1966–2018) – ScienceDirect
  3. Solanine – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
  4. Solanine – Wikipedia
  5. Black nightshade poisoning Information | Mount Sinai – New York
  6. Atropine – Wikipedia
  7. Atropine and diphenoxylate Uses, Side Effects & Warnings – Drugs.com