Checking the email connected to my book and blog has been interesting to say the least.
I'm going to touch base on a particular email I received from a man in the Army without using his name, I don't feel that he would mind. I believe that his accidental experience with Atropa Belladonna can be used to help and to educate others ...
"I recently picked and ate anywhere from 15 to 25 belladonna berries thinking they were elderberries. I have spent the last 5 days in the hospital and psych ward for obvious reasons luckily I am 6'3 230 pounds. I have not been deletions or had any halucinations for about 40 hours however I am still dizzy and light headed and it seems like my brain isn't putting things together like it should. So I was wondering if you have heard or read or know if it is possible that I might have any permanent effects from it"?
I have responded to him, but I would like to also take the opportunity to explain the difference between Atropa Belladonna and Elderberries as they do appear similar.
A single Atropa berry will grow in the center of a single "star" shaped leaf but can have many "stars" with small berries on its stems.
The bell-shaped flowers are purple with green tinges and faintly scented.
ALWAYS EXTREMELY POISONOUS
POISONOUS IF UNCOOKED
Elderberry (Sambucus) on the other hand, although also a black appearing small berry, will grow in "bunches" located on many thin stems, not in the center of a star or leaf. The leaves will be independent of its berries. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in late spring.
Contrary to popular belief, the "uncooked" elderberry is poisonous.
The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds, and roots of Sambucus plants can contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside which gives rise to cyanide as it is metabolised).
Ingesting a sufficient quantity of cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic buildup of cyanide in the body.
Its my understanding that for many years, many people have cooked these berries to use as a syrup,
key word being "cooked".
One last note before I end this post;
I never recommend eating berries or plant material of any kind unless you are 100% sure that you know what you are ingesting. Many plants, berries and flowers look alike and unless you can identify what they are and their species with certainty, never ingest them. The common misconception is that few plants are toxic or that the chances of finding a poisonous plant while on a walk or a hike is rare.
This is simply not true. Many plants are poisonous.
Let me use Angel's Trumpet for example ...
You will not find Angel's Trumpet growing just anywhere, but your chances of stumbling on Jimson Weed (sometimes referred to as Datura) which contains the same poison as Angels Trumpet (tropane alkaloids) is quite common in many areas throughout the country because it grows wild in many places.
Sometimes people mistake Jimson Weed for "wild" morning glories, not realizing just how poisonous Jimson Weed is.
Jimson Weed in and of itself is certainly post worthy, but for another day.