Herb: Thorn Apple

Latin name: Datura metel

Synonyms: Datura alba, Datura fastuosa

Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)

Medicinal use of Thorn Apple:

The whole plant, but especially the leaves and seed, is anaesthetic, anodyne, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, bronchodilator, hallucinogenic, hypnotic and mydriatic. It has a wide range of applications in India, including in the treatment of epilepsy, hysteria, insanity, heart diseases, fever with catarrh, diarrhoea, skin diseases etc. In China it is used in the treatment of asthma. Great caution is advised since excess doses cause hallucinations, severe intoxication and death. The toxic dose is very close to the medicinal dose so this plant should only be used under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity. The plant contains the alkaloids hyoscyamine, hyoscine and atropine. Atropine dilates the pupils and is used in eye surgery. Total alkaloid content of the leaves is 0.426%, which is mainly atropine. The seeds contain 0.426% alkaloids, which is mainly hyoscyamine. The roots contain 0.35% hyoscyamine. An extract of the flowers is used as an anaesthetic - 3 - 5g applied orally produces a general anaesthesia within 5 minutes and lasting 5 - 6 hours.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

to July


Habitat of the herb:

Waste places, river sands etc in sunny positions

Edible parts of Thorn Apple:

The leaves and roots are bruised, mixed with water and left to stand for several hours. The liquid is then drawn off and drunk. This is a highly narcotic drink, producing a stupefying effect that it is not easy to remove. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

Sow the seed in individual pots in early spring in a greenhouse. Put 3 or 4 seeds in each pot and thin if necessary to the best plant. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks at 15C. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Especially in areas with hot summers, it is worthwhile trying a sowing outdoors in situ in mid to late spring.

Cultivation of Thorn Apple:

Waste places, river sands etc in sunny positions

Known hazards of Datura metel:

All members of this genus contain narcotics and are very poisonous, even in small doses.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.