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The dangers of jimson weed and its abuse by teenagers in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia

Affiliation

  • 1 West Virginia University School of Medicine, Charleson Division, USA.
  • PMID: 9274142

The dangers of jimson weed and its abuse by teenagers in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia

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Authors

Affiliation

  • 1 West Virginia University School of Medicine, Charleson Division, USA.
  • PMID: 9274142

Abstract

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium, a member of the Belladonna alkyloid family) is a plant growing naturally in West Virginia and has been used as a home remedy since colonial times. Due to its easy availability and strong anticholinergic properties, teens are using Jimson weed as a drug. Plant parts can be brewed as a tea or chewed, and seed pods, commonly known as “pods” or “thorn apples,” can be eaten. Side effects from ingesting jimson weed include tachycardia, dry mouth, dilated pupils, blurred vision, hallucinations, confusion, combative behavior, and difficulty urinating. Severe toxicity has been associated with coma and seizures, although death is rare. Treatment consists of activated charcoal and gastric lavage. Esmolol or other beta-blocker may be indicated to reduce severe sinus tachycardia. Seizures, severe hypertension, severe hallucinations, and life-threatening arrhythmias are indicators for the use of the anticholinesterase inhibitor, Physostigmine. This article reviews the cases of nine teenagers who were treated in hospitals in the Kanawha Valley after ingesting jimson weed. We hope this article will help alert primary care physicians about the abuse of jimson weed and inform health officials about the need to educate teens about the dangers of this plant.

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium, a member of the Belladonna alkyloid family) is a plant growing naturally in West Virginia and has been used as a home remedy since colonial times. Due to its easy availability and strong anticholinergic properties, teens are using Jimson weed as a drug. Plant parts ca …

Jamison weed

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Crop and Soil Environmental News, April 2004

About Jimsonweed

Jimsonweed – (Datura stramonium L.)

  • 3 mm long in
  • kidney-shaped, with pitted surface, slightly wrinkled, flatened
  • similar to velvetleaf seed but not as deeply lobed
  • dull dark brown to black

Seed capsule covered with stiff prickles

Leaf shape and arrangement Leaf: Very angular, large, smooth (no hair), thin, wavy, coarsely toothed (jagged lobes) about 3 to 8 inches long, leaf margins resembles those of oak leaves, leaves on long stout petioles

Stolon/rhizome/roots No stolon or rhizome; stem stout, branched and green to purple in color; thick, shallow and extensively branched taproot system

Inflorecence Flowers are large and trumpet or funnel-shaped (tubular), white to pinkish, borne singly on short stalks in the axils of branches, are attractive and fragrant; fruit are a spiny egg-shaped capsule covered with short, sharp spines; when the fruit is ripe the pods burst open splitting into 4 segments and scatter numerous poisonous black, kidney-shaped seeds.

Jimsonweed – (Datura stramonium L., Synonyms:Datura tatula L.)

Other common names: Jamison-weed, jamestown-weed, jamestown lily, thorn-apple, stinkwort, stinkweed, mad-apple, trumpet plant, loco weed, angel’s trumpet, devil’s, fireweed, dewtry, apple of Peru

Warm-season, summer annual

Distribution and Adaptation

  • Native to Asia
  • Found almost everywhere in the US. except in the North and West; most common in the south.
  • Waste ground and cultivated land, preferring nitrogen-enriched habitats
  • Is a member of the nightshade family which includes potatoes and tomatoes.

Morphology/Growth pattern

  • Is herbaceous, annual plant that grows up to 3-5 feet tall and even taller in rich soil.
  • Reproduce by seed.
  • Dead leafless stem with dry seed remains standing in the field.

Use and Potential Problem

  • Primarily a weed of agronomic crops but also found in disturbed areas, along roadsides, old fields, pastures, barnyards, hog lots, waste places, and in gardens.
  • Jimsonweed is a poisonous plant; all parts of the plant are toxic; however, the seeds, fruit, and leaves contain the highest level of alkaloids and are the usual source of poisoning in humans, cattle, goats, horses, poultry, sheep, and swine. Poisoning of humans in recent years has been more frequent than livestock poisoning. Human poisoning results from sucking the nectar from flowers or consuming the seeds. Due to Jimsonweed’s strong unpleasant odor and taste animals avoid grazing it unless other more desirable forage species are not available.
  • Alkaloids are related to those found in magic mushrooms, however, magic mushrooms do not cause death even if consumed in a large quantity.
  • The plant contains tropane alkaloids, which affects the central nervous system, with the major alkaloids being atropine and scopolamine.
  • Symptoms associated with jimsonweed include blurred vision, confusion, agitation, and combative behavior

Did you know?

  • Jimsonweed has been used by Native Americans and others for drug-induced ceremonial and spiritual purposes.
  • Jimsonweed is also called Jamestown weed for two reasons: for the town in Virginia where jimsonweed is believed to have been imported to the US from England; In 1676 a massive poisoning of soldiers (by eating the plant in salads) in Jamestown, VA occurred, giving rise to the common name “Jamestown weed” and “jimsonweed”).
  • The seeds and leaves are deliberately used to induce intoxication.
  • Atropine, a substance in Jimsonweed has been used in treating Parkinson’s disease, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, and bronchial asthma.
  • In 1968, the use of Jimsonweed as a hallucinogenic drug prompted the US government to ban over-the-counter sales of products prepared from it.

Cheeke P. R. 1998. Natural Toxicants in Feeds, Forages, and Poisonous Plants. p. 382-383. 2nd. Ed. Interstate Pub. Inc. Danville, Illinois.

Hardin J. W. 1966. Stock-Poisoning Plants of North Carolina. p. 98-99. Bulletin No. 414. Agricultural Experiment Stat. North Carolina State Univ. Raleigh, NC.

Muenscher W. C. 1946. Weeds. p. 406-408. The Macmillan Co. New York, New York.

National Drug Intelligence Center 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001 McLean, VA 22102-3840 http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs/579/#Addresses

Russell A. B., J. W. Hardin, L. Grand, and A. Fraser. 1997. Poisonous Plants of North Carolina; North Carolina State University. Raleigh, NC. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/Daturst.htm

South Dakota weeds. 1975. Agric. Ext. Serv. South Dakota State University. Pub. p. 154. South Dakota State Weed Control Commission.

Uva, R. H., J. C. Neal, and J. M. DiTomaso. 1997. Weeds of the Northeast. p. 312-313. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York.

Jamison weed You’ve reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are