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Diets containing 0.5, 1.58 and 5.0% jimson weed seed were fed to male and female rats (20/group) in a 90-day subchronic feeding study. The alkaloid content was 2.71 mg atropine and 0.66 mg scopolamine/g of seed. Gross clinical observations, body weights and feed and water intakes were recorded weekly. Tear production and pupil dilation measurements were made throughout the study. At 90 days, all of the animals were autopsied and clinical-chemistry analyses, complete haematology and bone-marrow evaluation for evidence of clastogenic effects were performed. Tissues from control (0% seed) and high-dose animals were examined histologically. The principal effects of jimson weed seed were: decreased body-weight gain, serum albumin and serum calcium; increased liver and testes weights (as a percentage of body weight), serum alkaline phosphatase and blood urea nitrogen. Female rats showed more marked responses to jimson weed seed than did males. In addition to the effects seen in both sexes, the females developed decreased serum total protein and cholesterol, and increased serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase and chloride, red blood cell count, haemoglobin concentration and packed red cell volume. No histological lesions were associated with ingestion of jimson weed seed at 5.0%. It is concluded that jimson weed seed at concentrations of 0.5% or more in the diet produced adverse physiological changes in rats.
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.