The "sacred Datura" is a toxic plant native to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is more commonly known as thorn apple, jimson weed, and locoweed.

The last nickname—locoweed—gives an indication of the plant's chemical properties. The seeds and seed pods of the thorn apple, like the one above, are powerful, often deadly hallucinogens. One doctor who has treated victims of Datura poisoning described his patients as "hallucinating up a storm, talking to people in the room who aren't there, removing [imaginary] bugs from their body." Datura poisoning can lead to irregular heartbeat and breathing, convulsions, coma, and death.

The plant's toxicity is dependent on local weather and environmental conditions, and is very difficult to determine. For this reason, Native American tribes generally avoided the thorn apple. However, highly trained healers and shamans knew how to handle the substance and used it as a medicinal plant and for spiritual purposes.

Thorn apples had a wide variety of uses to Native Americans. Their use was administered by trained healers. These are some of the uses recorded by early anthropologistsnot Native American communities or healers themselves.

  • roots and leaves made into a poultice to relieve boils
  • juice used as a disinfectant
  • leaves made into an ointment to relieve pain when setting bones
  • roots eaten to relieve pain of appendicitis
  • leaves and roots made into a paste to relieve tarantula, ant, and snake bites
  • leaves made into an ointment and applied to reduce swelling
  • plant eaten by hunters to increase strength and reduce hunger on long hunts
  • leaves infused in water used to soothe sheep after castration
  • dew from flowers used as an eyewash
  • leaves steamed and vapor inhaled to relieve nasal congestion
  • plant mixed into a paste and applied to saddle sores on horses
  • leaves infused in water used as a bath to relieve pain of arthritis
environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

hallucinogen
Noun

drug or chemical that causes distortions in a person's sense of reality.

indication
Noun

hint or signal.

medicinal plant
Noun

plant used to cure or comfort people or animals suffering from disease.

Native American
Noun

person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

plant
Noun

organism that produces its own food through photosynthesis and whose cells have walls.

poison
Noun

substance that harms health.

sacred
Adjective

greatly respected aspect or material of a religion.

seed
Noun

part of a plant from which a new plant grows.

shaman
Noun

a religious leader who uses magic to treat illnesses and help followers.

spiritual
Adjective

having to do with religion or faith.

toxic
Adjective

poisonous.

victim
Noun

person or organization that suffers from the act of another.

Noun

state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.