Belladonna is an herb that has been used for centuries for a variety of indications, including headache, menstrual symptoms, peptic ulcer disease, inflammation, and motion sickness. Belladonna is known to contain active agents with anticholinergic properties, such as the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscine (scopolamine) and hyoscyamine.
There are few available studies of belladonna alone for any indication. Most research has evaluated belladonna in combination with other agents such as ergot alkaloids or barbiturates, or in homeopathic (diluted) preparations. Preliminary evidence suggests possible efficacy in combination with barbiturates for the management of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. However, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence regarding the use of belladonna for this or any other indication.
Common adverse effects include dry mouth, urinary retention, flushing, papillary dilation, constipation, confusion and delirium. Many of these effects may occur at therapeutic doses.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Belladonna can cause relaxation of the airway and reduce the amount of mucus produced. However, due to lack of high-quality human research in this area, there is not enough evidence to form a clear conclusion.
Little reliable research is available on the use of belladonna for ear infections. Other therapies have been shown effective and are recommended for this condition.
The available studies of belladonna in the treatment of headache are not well designed and do not show a clear benefit. More studies are needed to test the ability of belladonna alone (not in multi-ingredient products) to treat or prevent headache.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Belladonna has been used historically for the treatment of irritable bowel, and in theory its mechanism of action should be effective for some of the symptoms. However, of the few studies that are available, none clearly show that belladonna alone (not as part of a mixed product) provides this effect.
Nervous system disorders
The autonomic nervous system, which helps control basic body functions like sweating and blood flow, is affected in several disorders. To date, human studies have shown no benefit from belladonna in treating these disorders.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Bellergal® (a combination of phenobarbital, ergot, and belladonna) has been used to treat PMS symptoms. More studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Radiation therapy rash (radiation burn)
There is a lack of reliable scientific evidence available for the effectiveness of belladonna for rash after radiation therapy. Further study is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Bellergal® (a combination of phenobarbital, ergot, and belladonna) has been used historically to treat hot flashes. However, in human studies belladonna supplements have not shown effectiveness.