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Human Overdose on Homeopathic Drugs Containing Belladonna Extract

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A close of Atropa belladonna, aka a planta belladonna.

At the end of Atropa belladonna, aka the belladonna plant.
Photo: Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova / Wikimedia Commons (Another)

From the writer of medical irony comes this recent case study from Germany. Doctors say one of their patients ended up sick urgently after being poisoned by a homeopathic remedy — quack treatments that by definition contained almost no active ingredients. Fortunately, the man was healed without any lasting damage.

The case report, published at the end of last month in Clinical Toxicology, details a 53-year-old man with no pre-existing health problems who visited the emergency room of a hospital affiliated with the Technical University of Monaco. He had symptoms of confusion, anxiety, slurred speech, and ataxia (loss of muscle control and coordination). All of these symptoms began to appear after taking a homeopathic treatment that contained extract from the belladonna plant (Atropa belladonna), also called deadly nightshade.

Doctors soon suspected that the man suffers from anticholinergic syndrome, a condition caused by too much inhibition of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Tests on the man’s blood, as well as on the preparation the man took, have revealed the presence of atropine, which is found naturally in belladonna and is well known to inhibit acetylcholine. Atropine has long been used medicinally to dilate the eyes or stabilize an over-low heart rate, but is dangerous at too high (or too low) doses, and can cause the above and other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, gastrointestinal problems, and even hallucinations. Both the plant itself and its berries are also toxic when eaten, especially to children.

Anticholinergic syndrome is not most enjoyable experience in the world to pass, but is rarely dangerous to life. And in this case, the man was simply observed and recovered by himself without needing specific treatment, doctors reported. But they also estimated that atropine levels found in the homeopathic preparation were 600 times higher than reported.

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“Rare but perhaps dangerous manufacturing errors should be considered when faced with the symptoms that occur after ingestion of homeopathic or holistic remedies,” the authors wrote.

The irony here is that homeopathic medicine, which was born in the late 18th century, is said to work by diluting an ingredient to the point where it essentially leaves nothing in the preparation that people take then (let alone a solution). liquid is a scared sugar pill in it). Logic says that these ultra-dilutions will somehow unlock their therapeutic potential and treat everything that can hurt you. In fact, homeopathy is little more than one glorified placebo when done right and occasionally harmful otherwise.

In fact, this is not the case first time Belladonna has played a role in people who are poisoned by homeopathy. In 2016, a Food and Drug Administration warned parents keep away from homeopathic dentition products marketed to get belladonna, after reports of injuries and 10 deaths related to its use in children picking up to 2010. His next investigation shown that atropine and a similar chemical could be found in these products at variable doses, and the warning led to the discontinuation of a famous brand of dentition. connected to the poisonings.

If nothing else, this case should be a fitting reminder of why these useless “drugs” are not always as safe as marketed.


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