Atropine is a natural chemical substance present in some plants belonging to the nightshade family, such as the mandrake, deadly nightshade and Jimson weed. This naturally occurring plant chemical was isolated for the first time in 1833. In its natural form, atropine is a bitter crystalline compound. This compound is used for a number of therapeutic purposes, especially in a controlled environment. In addition, some people also use atropine for recreation, despite the fact that it is illegal. Pharmaceutical-quality atropine is produces in extremely controlled environs with a view to make sure that the drug is safe for use and its dosage remains precise.

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Use of atropine actually slows down the activity of the vagus nerve, which governs several functions in the torso, counting the heart. In addition, atropine also obstructs the activity of acetylcholine, thereby helping the muscles of our body to unwind. Normally, atropine works to dilate the pupils, while increasing the heart rate. The use of this drug may result in nausea, light-headedness and various neurological symptoms. This is mainly because atropine crosses a barrier between the blood and brain. When taken in very high doses, this drug may even cause death.

Atropine is used to take advantage of its positive effects on the body. For instance, this drug may be used to dilate the eyes' pupils or in the form of an anti-spasmodic drug, as it compels the muscles to unwind. Since atropine decreases secretions inside the respiratory tract, this drug is often employed in anesthesiology with a view to reduce these secretions before any surgery to make sure that the patient does not suffer from any type of build-up or accumulation of fluids inside the lungs. In addition, it is also possible to use atropine for treating organophosphate poisoning. Moreover, this drug is used for stimulating the heart, especially in people having a very sluggish heart rate.

Since atropine can prove to be very unsafe, it is essential to use this drug in very controlled environments. Physicians need to calculate as well as measure the dosage of this drug very carefully to make sure that it is used in the appropriate manner. In several regions, access to atropine is restricted, owing to concerns about the misuse of this drug. Generally people who use this drug for recreational purposes usually do this to experience the neurological effects of atropine. Recreational use of atropine is illegal and people who engage in this usually consume various plants belonging to the nightshade family. In fact, this should be the last thing that anyone should do, as it is not possible to calculate the dosage of atropine in any single plant.

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Atropine's name has reference to Atropos, which, in Greek mythology, is one of the Fates. Legend has it that Atropos was the responsible for decisions regarding how people would die. For long, people have been aware of the risks associated with consuming plants belonging to the nightshade family owing to the presence of atropine. This is the main reason why people in Europe viewed tomatoes and potatoes with great suspicion when they were introduced into this continent. These plants are also members of the nightshade family. Other plants that belong to this plant family include peppers, eggplants and tobacco. This is an excellent example of the diversity of plants in the Solanaceae, which is the formal name of the plants in this family.


Atropine possesses several therapeutic properties and has various different applications. This natural medicine is used for treating specific types of nerve agents as well as poisoning due to exposure to pesticides. It also helps to treat a number of forms of slow heart rate and reduce the production of saliva during surgery. Typically, atropine is administered intravenously or injected into a muscle. Specific eye drops containing atropine are used for treating early amblyopia and uveitis. When administered in the form of an intravenous solution, atropine starts working almost immediately, within a minute, and the effects continue for anything between 30 minutes to an hour. Elevated doses of atropine may be necessary for treating various poisonings.

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Surgeries where anesthesia is necessary, patients are administered atropine much before the operation with a view to lessen the bodily secretions like saliva and phlegm. Administration of atropine before surgery helps the body to quickly take up the anesthesia. Moreover, when secretions are reduced, it also helps to make the anesthesia more effective, thereby it is possible to avoid administering anesthetics repeatedly. Normally, the use of atropine inhibits the bodily activities associated with the nervous system. As a result, it also helps to inhibit secretion production and release.

In eye examinations, atropine is often used as a topical medication. This natural medicine may result in the temporary paralysis of the eye muscles that helps the eyes to focus on an object - a condition known as cyclopegia. Therefore, topical application of atropine to the eyes can be useful in providing relief to patients enduring an inflamed uvea or iridocyclitis. Atropine can also be employed to induce extended mydriasis. In other words, it can help to dilate the pupil of the eye. However, it is advisable that you need to be additionally cautious when you are using atropine in the form of an ophthalmic medicine, because its effects may linger for as long as two weeks.

In addition to the above mentioned uses of atropine, physicians can also employ this natural medicine to treat ailments related to the heart as well as in emergencies. The mechanism of atropine is said to be putting of the vagus nerve from making the heart rate slower.

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Atropine is also effective in neutralizing chemical poisoning. By itself, atropine is not an anti-toxin, but it works to block a number of receptors of the nervous system from taking delivery of any message pertaining to pain, thereby providing relief from the symptoms related to poisoning. Administering atropine in the form of an injection can prove to be effective in treating symptoms associated with DUMBBELSS - an abbreviation that stands for diarrhea, urination as well as sweating. Numerous soldiers who are deployed in areas of chemical warfare generally carry syringes containing atropine with them.

When the situation is not so urgent, atropine can also be used for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea. Used together with other chemical compounds, small measures of atropine can be employed in the form of sedatives for animals. However, use of this drug may cause hallucinations and this is the reason why some people take this chemical for pleasure as well as illegal purposes. However, using this drug irresponsibly can result in negative effects, for instance bewilderment and hallucination, poisoning and even result in coma. When an individual experiences poisoning or coma, chances are very high that they will die soon after.

Our body takes up atropine very quickly through the digestive system. Hence, when one wants a very quick effect of this drug, he/ she usually administers it only through the parenteral route. For instance, this practice is quite common while treating colic pain. The plasma half-life of atropine is roughly four hours.

On the other hand, when atropine is administered by the standard route, its affects remain for about six hours. It is worth mentioning here that atropine and scopolamine were the two first drugs that were employed for treating Parkinson's disease. However, now these drugs have been replaced by various muscarinic receptor antagonists like benztropine and trihexyphenidyl. In addition, L-dopa is also used to treat Parkinson's disease and this drug has an entirely different mode of action.

Side effects and cautions

Notwithstanding the several benefits offered by atropine, use of this naturally occurring plant material also has a number of adverse side effects, such as constipation, dry mouth, dryness of the skin, mydriasis and tachycardia. The contraindications associated to atropine mainly include glaucoma, primarily because this substance increases the intraocular pressure in people already suffering narrow angle and prostate hypertrophy (a condition wherein patients have problems in micturition and also face the risk of urine retention).


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