Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Angel's trumpet poisoning

I looked up some information on the toxic compounds in Brugmansia. The plant contains an unhealthy brew of the alkaloids atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine.

Because these can cause hallucinogenic effects they are often ingested by those seeking just such an effect. When combined with alcohol the effects can be rapid. Although the plant can be eaten or smoked the most popular method of ingestion is to prepare a tea from the flowers and seeds.

Unfortunately because the levels of the alkaloids vary widely from season to season it is very easy to overdose and it is estimated that 'teas prepared from as few as 10 flowers could be extremely toxic if not fatal'. Angel's trumpet ingestion produces the classic symptoms of anticholinergic poisoning, so classic that they have their own mnemonic: 'hot as a hare, dry as a bone, blind as a bat, red as a beet and mad as a hatter.'

This paper, Ingestion of Angel's Trumpet: An increasingly Common Source of Toxicity, reports a ten fold increase in Brugmanisa poisoning in Florida in 1994. They failed to locate a particular reason for this (ie reference to Brugmania use in a movie) and suggest the idea was simply spread by word of mouth. And then the internet came along...

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