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Tall, bushy, herbaceous plant, the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), of the nightshade family; also, the crude drug consisting of its dried leaves or roots. The plant is a native of wooded or waste areas in central and southern Eurasia. It has dull green leaves, violet or greenish flowers, shiny black berries about the size of cherries, and a large, tapering root. Belladonna is highly poisonous and is cultivated for medicinal substances (alkaloids) that are derived from the crude drug and used in sedatives, stimulants, and antispasmodics. Because of toxicity and undesirable side effects, however, these substances are being replaced by synthetic drugs.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on belladonna, visit Britannica.com.