The name "belladonna" means "beautiful lady," and was chosen because of a risky practice in Italy. The belladonna berry juice was used historically in Italy to enlarge the pupils of women, giving them a striking appearance. This was not a good idea, because belladonna can be poisonous.
Since 2010, the FDA has been cracking down on homeopathic infant teething tablets and gels. These products may contain inaccurate doses of belladonna. Serious side effects including seizures, breathing problems, tiredness, constipation, difficulty urinating, and agitation have been reported in infants taking these products.
Though widely regarded as unsafe, belladonna is taken by mouth as a sedative, to stop bronchial spasms in asthma and whooping cough, and as a cold and hay fever remedy. It is also used for Parkinson's disease, colic, inflammatory bowel disease, motion sickness, and as a painkiller.
Belladonna is used in ointments that are applied to the skin for joint pain, pain along the sciatic nerve, and general nerve pain. Belladonna is also used in plasters (medicine-filled gauze applied to the skin) for mental disorders, inability to control muscle movements, excessive sweating, and asthma.
Belladonna is also used as suppositories for hemorrhoids.
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