Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Solanaceae, native toEurope, North Africa, and Western Asia. The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids. These toxins include scopolamineand hyoscyamine which cause a bizarre delirium and hallucinations. The drug atropine is derived from the plant.
It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery, and it was used as a poison by early men, ancient Romans, including the wives of two Emperors, and by Macbeth of Scotland before he became a Scottish King.
The genus name "atropa" comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology, and the name "atropa bella donna" is derived from an admonition in Italian and Greek meaning "do not betray a beautiful lady"