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Basic Information

The name Datura can refer either to a family of plants comprising nine species of Solanaceae or to the blend of toxic alkaloids that can be extracted from them.

The plants appear to be endemic to most tropical and temperate regions of the planet (although it is unknown how much of that is natural range and how much cultivation) and are known by a variety of names from "thorn apple" to "devil's trumpets" and "loco-weed". Confusingly, some of these names are used for other solonaceae and some of the plants commonly referred to as Datura actually belong to another family. The herb mandrake is related but does not belong to this family. All produce the alkaloid blend to some degree or the other and should be considered highly poisonous and handled with care.

The alkaloid blend includes scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine as well as other tropanes, generally in the seeds and flowers and in proportions that depend on a large number of factors. All of these compounds are, to some degree, anticholinergic nerve agents and have a range of toxic effects including dissociative delirium, paralysis, amnesia and photophobia.

Perhaps inevitably these plants have tended to be used by humans for ritual purposes - possibly as entheogens or as ordeal drugs - and as poisons. Like many solonaceae they are implicated in all sorts of weirdness over the years but generally have a dark reputation - modern day recreational users show a far higher level of "bad trips" from these than from any other group of traditional psychoactives (for example psilocybin or peyote). They are also problematic due to their variable composition which makes it difficult to calculate a "safe" dose, especially when using traditional techniques. Medical applications are limited, but very dilute preparations have been used in Vedic Medicine and topical applications have been used to treat conditions such as gout1. Datura is suggested to be the dissociative element of the poisoning regime used to create a Voodoo zombie.

Accidental Datura poisoning can also occur due to the consumption of honey harvested from Datura flowers or from foragers mistaking the plants for another species. Domestic animals may also graze on Datura and become intoxicated and dangerous as a result.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A random person hires PCs to take on "spiders as big as dogs" that are infesting his property. Would seem to be a fairly straightforward rat-job, except that the PCs cannot find the spiders - and asking around beforehand will discover that no-one else has seen them and believe the PCs client to be mad … or bewitched. Probing for supernatural spiders will also draw a dead end but the client continues to see them and is terrified. His actual problem is that his gout medication (or other source - perhaps a private jar of mad honey) is contaminated with Datura (or other) alkaloids and, between a pre-existing arachnophobia and the regular spider population of his house the dissociative and hallucinogenic effects of the drugs are causing him to see enormous spiders. Actually figuring this out might be quite a task and require some very skilled investigation by players. The GM will need to leave lots of clues lying about - the start date, for example, might be memorable because it coincided with the first course of the new gout ointment, the spiders always appear at a given time of day - an hour or so after he applies the ointment (determined by taking a very careful schedule of his day), the spiders appear wherever he goes, but may change appearance if, for example, the PCs move him out to a cottage in the countryside where the spider population is different…
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