Datura, often touted as “Thorn Apple”, though considered as one of the deadliest plant species, for its super toxic components, when consumed raw is also surprisingly a powerhouse of medical components if purified properly.
Be it the leaves, fruits, flowers, stem or roots, Datura has been traditionally used in both folklore medications and alternative therapies. However, due to the strong hallucinogenic properties of the plant, Datura is often used to relieve asthmatic symptoms and reduce the pain during the surgery and bone setting procedures. Though a strong narcotic plant, datura offers umpteen health benefits and is extensively used for alleviating pain, treating fever, enhancing heart functions, improving fertility, inducing sleep, easing childbirth and promoting hair and skin health.
What Is Datura?
Datura is a bushy, erect annual herb that usually grows to a height of 2-5 ft. The plant has a foul stench and is widely found growing naturally in clayey-loamy soils found in fallow fields, croplands, old feedlots, waste areas, nearby construction sites, deserted vacant places, and even in waste areas. The plant has purplish-green hollow stems and smooth erect oval-shaped leaves that are arranged alternately on it. Flowers have a pleasant smell and are found in 3 distinct colours which are yellow, red, violet or greenish-white in colour. They are usually large and are bisexual and hypogynous. Fruits have a bitter acid-like taste and are knobby, ovate and are coffered with short spikes. The seeds are enclosed within the fruits and are spiny, whereas roots are brown, cylindrical and branched.
It is normally found in the tropical parts of India and the temperate regions of the Himalayas and is also found growing wildly in fertile calcareous soils of North America, Mexico, North Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Bangladesh.
Common Names Of Datura
Depending upon the part of the world the plant is found, local names of Datura include Jamestown weed, Purple thorn-apple, Hell’s bell, Devil’s snare, Stinkweed, Jimsonweed, Mad apple, Moonflower, Stink wort, False castor-oil, Devil’s-apple, Stramonium jimsonweed, Devil’s trumpet, Devil’s cucumber, Prickly burr, and Devil’s weed.
In the Indian subcontinent, it is chiefly known as Dhuttura Kanaka or Kanakahvya in Sanskrit, Sada Dhatura in Hindi, Ummetta in Telugu, Ummattangani in Tamil and Dhattura in Bengali.
Types Of Datura
The datura plant is itself a genus comprising 14-15 different species of plants all belonging to the Solanaceae family. These species include:
- Datura metal
- Datura stramonium
- Datura Alba
- Datura fastuosa
- Datura candida (Pers) Saff
- Datura ferox L
- Datura leichhardtii Benth
- Datura reburra Barclay Datura innoxia Mill
- Datura inoxia Mill
- Datura kymatocarpa Barclay
- Datura ceratocaula Ortega
- Datura discolor Bernh
- Datura dolichocarpa (Lagerh) Saff
- Datura wrightii Regel
Among these, the most common species of the Datura that are extensively used in medications are:
Datura metal (Purple Datura):
This species of Datura is extensively used in ayurvedic and religious purposes and is widely used for the treatment of asthma, cough and cold and painful conditions.
Datura alba (White datura):
It usually bears white flowers and grows naturally in the Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim.
Datura stramonium (Black datura):
Being a source of a hypnotic drug known as stramonium, this species of Datura portrays potent hypnotic and sedative effects.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Datura:
The holistic science of Ayurveda classifies this herb in “Upavisha Varga” which is a secondary toxic plant. Upavisha Varga usually means a category of plants of poisonous or toxic origin. Ayurveda vouches that in small doses these plants under the Upavisha category are effective and have medicinal uses but can be lethal if not purified through the Sodhana process or taken in excess.
This powerful herb is broadly mentioned in ancient ayurvedic scriptures of Charaka Samhita and Raj Nighantu for treating various problems including Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Kustha (treats skin disorders), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Amahara (treats indigestion), and Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Mehahara (treats diabetic symptoms), Hridaya (treats heart problems), Kaphahara (prevents cough and cold), Varnya (improves complexion), and Svasahara (treats respiratory ailments).
Pharmacological Constituents Of Datura
Imbibed with powerful hallucinogenic and deliriant properties, Datura has a mother lode of antioxidants, flavonoids, alkaloids, organic compounds, and minerals. The bioactive components in Datura include Daturine, Daturadiol, Hyoscine, Atropine, Noratropine, Fastudine, Allantoin, Hypocyamine, Norhyosciamine, Tropane, Meteolodine, Scopolamine, Mucilage, Albumen, Vitamin C, Niacin, and Malic Acids.
Parts Of Datura Used In Medicinal Formulations
Datura plant as a whole has several characteristic properties including anti-spasmodic, analgesic, sleep-inducing, expectorant, sedative, hypnotic, intoxicant, uterine stimulant and bronchodilator properties.
Owing to its several therapeutic properties, the entire plant, be it the fresh or dry leaves, seeds, roots, or fruits, Datura has carved its way in many traditional and alternative medications.
Datura seeds when used in raw form are extremely dangerous and poisonous, hence before using them in any formulation, the seeds require a series of sodhana or purification process, to detoxify the harmful effects, so as to reduce the toxicity levels in the human body and to promote the therapeutic value of the part.
Formulation Of Datura:
Also known as Kanakasavam, this formulation contains purified Datura that is mainly aimed at the treatment and prevention of respiratory diseases. The presence of bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory properties, the formulation provides relief from an acute attack of asthma and increases the airflow to the lungs by dilating and relaxing the bronchial pathways.
4 parts Shuddha Datura Panchang – Purified Datura metal (All Parts)
4 parts Vasaka – Adhatoda vasica
2 parts Nagkesar – Mesua ferrea
2 parts Sonth or Dry Ginger (Ginger Rhizome) – Zingiber officinalis
2 parts Bharangi – Clerodendrum serratum
2 parts Mulethi (Yashtimadhu) – Glycyrrhiza Glabra
2 parts Pippali (Long Pepper) – Piper longum
2 parts Kantakari – Solanum xanthocarpum
2 parts Talispatra – Abies Webbiana
16 parts Dhataki Flower- Woodfordia fruticosa
20 parts Munakka – Vitis Vinifera
100 parts Sharkara (Sugar)
50 parts Madhu (Honey)
512 parts Water
Take warm water in the Asava vessel and put honey and sugar in it in measured quantity.
Mix it well and add the crushed Munakka.
Then add the powdered Dhataki Flower and mix it properly.
One by one add all other ingredients with continuous stirring until you get a homogenous mixture.
Keep it aside in the fermentation room and allow it to ferment for 30 days.
Keep a check on the fermentation process without disturbing the fluid.
Once the fermentation is done, filter the fermented liquid through a muslin cloth to eliminate solid particles and impurities.
The Kanakasava concoction is ready which is then poured in air-tight containers, stored in a cool, dry place and kept for maturation.
Health Benefits Of Datura
Improves Respiratory Health
Famed as a traditional remedy for all sorts of respiratory troubles, Datura is truly effective as an alternative treatment for asthmatic conditions. Having powerful anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and anti-spasmodic properties, the entire plant hold high significance in treating all sorts of respiratory troubles including the common cold, flu, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, etc. Being a natural expectorant, it helps in getting rid of the mucous deposits within the chest and nasal cavities and thus helps in breathing. On proper dosage, this herb strengthens the lung muscles and improves its functioning. Also Read: 5 Home Remedies To Soothe Sore Throat And Cough
Aids In Cardiac Functioning
Datura has been found to have a positive effect on the heart. Being a natural antioxidant and a cardio-protective herb, it plays a pivotal role in treating a host of heart ailments. It relaxes the cardiac system, by calming the mind, which is extremely beneficial for patients suffering from arrhythmias and palpitations. It is also useful in strengthening the heart muscles, lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing lipid build-up, which in turn reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart blocks, heart attacks, blood clots, etc. Also Read: Top 10 Superfoods For A Healthy Heart
Relaxes The Mind
Datura is famed for its effects on the human mind. The presence of adaptogenic, hypnotic, and sedative properties not only improves the mood but also relieves stress. It holds high significance in normalising the Vata and Pitta Doshas in the body which in turn keeps the stress hormone, i.e. serotonin hormone level under control. This helps to reduce various symptoms of anxiety which include uneasiness, restlessness, cold hands, and feet, etc. By relaxing the mind, it is also extremely crucial in remedying different types of psychotic problems like depression, dementia, etc.
Enhances Fertility And Childbirth
Datura offers a one-shot traditional remedy for boosting libido and improving fertility in both men and women. It showcases strong aphrodisiac properties that not only helps in reducing mental stress and anxiety but also stimulates the reproductive hormones for increasing libido. It plays a key role in increasing virility and stamina in men. Consuming purified datura seeds by seeping them in milk has been known to increase blood circulation in the genitals which thereby improves the production of male hormones like testosterone and luteinizing hormone, thus improving the motility and quality of sperms in male.
In the case of females, it not only improves fertility by balancing the production of progesterone but also effectively reduces pain and calms the body by relaxing the uterine muscles after a painful delivery.
Bolsters Immune System
The abundance of antioxidants and ascorbic acid present in Datura makes it one of the well-known folk remedies for improving the immune system, fighting microbes and shielding the body against various infections. Datura also portrays the presence of strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties, which not only helps in removing bacteria or germs from the body but also facilitates healing wounds. It effectively stimulates the production of white blood cells and helps in neutralizing the free oxygen radicals throughout the body. The biochemical constituents also help in reducing general debility, weakness, and fatigue and improve the vitality of the body. Also Read: Top 8 Ayurvedic Formulations That Can Bolster Your Immunity
Datura showcases strong digestive and carminative properties which offer an effective remedy for all sorts of digestive anomalies. Thanks to its anti-flatulent property, it helps in reducing the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thereby treating flatulence, gassy gut, bloating, constipation, abdominal distension, and abdominal cramps. It also helps in reducing the production of high levels of acid in the stomach and maintains proper digestion, assimilation, and absorption of nutrients. Also Read: 5 Herbs For A Healthy Digestive System
By reducing the levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, Datura holds high significance in attenuating stress. Thanks to the sedative effects of Datura, it is widely used for improving the quality, and duration of sleep. Datura can effectively provide a restful, undisturbed sleep for people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders by soothing the nerves, managing the proper release of hormones and reducing pain and inflammation. Also Read: Types of Insomnia: Here’s What You Should Do To Sleep
Reduces Pain And Inflammation
Thanks to the presence of strong pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, Datura is extensively used to provide relief in case of painful conditions like arthritis, muscle spasms, etc. The pain due to Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as Amavata which generally occurs due to accumulation of toxins in the joints and vitiation of Vata Doshas, can be alleviated on using formulations containing Datura.
Prepare a juice of Datura, Castor and Calotropis leaves and apply it on the inflamed and swollen joints due to rheumatoid arthritis to get relief.
Imbued with potent anti-parasitic and temperature reducing effects, the fruit of Datura is used effectively in treating different types of fever. Traditionally, been used against the malaria parasite, the purified fruit reduces the body temperature and inhibits the growth of the malarial parasite right at the ring stage and hence prevents aggravation of the infection within the body. Apart from malaria, Datura is also effective against fever due to common cold, flu or influenza.
Augments Skin And Hair Health
Loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, Datura is used for treating oxidative free radical damage due to the sun rays, and hence treats the various signs of aging like wrinkles, fine line, spots, dark circles, etc. It is also highly effective in reducing acne, pimples and hence bequeaths a smooth and glowing skin.
Apart from improving skin quality, Datura also plays a pivotal role in promoting hair growth. It holds high significance in promoting blood circulation in the scalp and hair follicles, which in turn enriches the roots by bringing in more nutrients through the blood supply and help in the growth of new hair. Ayurveda strongly suggests that a salve made from datura juice when applied onto the scalp regularly not only cures male pattern baldness but also prevents premature greying, sudden hair fall and different types of scalp infections.
Effect On Doshas:
Datura is sanctified with Katu (i.e. pungent) and Tikta Rasa (i.e. bitter taste) and Laghu (i.e. light) and Rukhsha Guna (i.e. dry quality). It intrinsically portrays Ushna Virya (i.e. hot potency) and Katu Vipaka (i.e. pungent metabolic taste). Being light and dry, it pacifies the Vata (i.e. air) Doshas whereas having a pungent metabolic taste and hot potency, the herb normalises the Kapha (i.e. water and earth) Doshas. Owing to these ayurvedic properties, Datura portrays Kapha-hara (expectorant), Madakari (hypnotic), Varnya, and Agni-Vriddhikar Prabhava (i.e. effects on the body).
However, it can often lead to an aggravation of the Pitta (i.e. water and fire) Dosha levels. Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, the herb has a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e. body tissues) which are Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e. Blood), Mamsa (i.e. Muscles), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids). Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas
The exact therapeutic dosage of Datura may vary from person to person depending upon the age, body strength, effects on appetite, severity, and condition of the patient. It is strictly advised to consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner as he or she would evaluate the patient’s indications and prescribe an effective dose for a specific period.
Risk Factors Of Datura
Datura is considered to be extremely lethal and poisonous for people having the following conditions:
- Increased heartbeat
- Patients having pacemaker
- Elevated intraocular pressure
- Pregnant women and lactating mothers
Datura Side Effects:
Being a toxic plant, it is strongly advocated to use or consume any part of the plant only after proper diagnosis and consultation with the doctor. Specifically, datura leaves and seeds contain a high concentration of poisonous alkaloids like Daturine and albumen in addition to mucilage and ash. These alkaloids contain about 25% potassium nitrate. If the plant parts are consumed raw without purification, it can be extremely lethal towards health.
An overdosage or use of impurified Datura can lead to the following health conditions:
- Hallucination and intoxication
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitation
- Muscle stiffness
- Allergic reactions
- Increased heart rate
- Increase in Intraocular pressure
In certain chronic cases, it can be extremely lethal and can ultimately cause unconsciousness, coma and even death.
Although a medicinal plant with innumerable uses like treating fever, heart problems, respiratory disorders, psychotic conditions, insomnia, depression, improving digestion and skin disorders, it must be made clear that the plant should only be used under doctor’s approval. The use of an impure plant part or consumption of an incorrect dosage can be extremely lethal and can cost your health.