Also known as angel's trumpet or devil's trumpet, datura metel is an medicinal plant whose use dates back as far as 3000 years. Today, it is mainly used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pain, seizures, and coma. This plant has also been used for its anesthetic, or pain-killing, properties.
Datura metel is known as an anticholinergic, meaning it reduces spasms by blocking the transmission of nerve impulses. Additionally, it is a well-known plant with deliriant properties, or capable of causing hallucinations or delirium. It has been the choice of many cultures over the years for astral or shamanistic journeys, or as a rite of passage.
Its ability to control spasms has led to datura metel being used frequently in Chinese herbology to treat the wheezing of asthma, and in Vietnam, it is added to asthmatic cigarettes. Great care must be taken when using this herb, as the toxic dose is very close to the medicinal dose. The wrong dosage can induce hallucinations, severe intoxication, and even death. Use of this plant should be closely monitored by an experienced practitioner trained in herbology.
The alkanoids contained within the plant is what makes it effective as a anesthetic. Alkanoids are chemical compounds produced by a large number of organisms, and many have pharmaceutical effects. The alkanoids in datura are hycosamine, hycosine, and atropine.
The region of origin is somewhat of a mystery, but today datura metel is cultivated world-wide for its medicinal purposes, as well as for the pretty flowers. It grows to a height of approximately 3 feet (0.914 m), and does not do well in the shade. It prefers sandy, loamy, and well-drained soil. It flowers from June to July.
Datura metel is unregulated and uncontrolled by the federal government in the United States, although some states do have laws that make possessing or using it illegal. Federal law does not approve of human consumption. Indeed, there are many dangers associated with the recreational use of datura metel, including death, and it should be used for medicinal purposes only, and under the care and supervision of a healthcare provider.
In the past, dautra was considered a sacred herb and was used in religious ceremonies, initiation rituals, and even in ritual sacrifices. Its medicinal properties were well-known, and was used in poultices, plasters, and ointments. Today, its medicinal effects can still be a valuable part of the medical field.