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Anticholinergic drug. A poisonous, crystalline alkaloid derived from certain nightshade plants, especially Egyptian henbane, atropine is used chiefly to dry up bodily secretions, to dilate the bronchi, to prevent excessive cardiac slowing during anesthesia, and in ophthalmology to dilate the pupil of the eye. It works by suppressing the parasympathetic nervous system. Atropine is also used as an antidote for nerve gas poisoning.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on atropine, visit Britannica.com.