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Category: Natural chemicals


Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description

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Hyoscyamine or hyoscamine is a tropane alkaloid found in certain plants of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family of plants.

Many of the plants containing scopolamine also contain hyoscyamine [and vice versa].  Scopolamine and hyoscyamine are often found in the same family of plants as the other tropane alkaloid atropine. It too is found in, for example,  henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), and deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna).   Hyoscyamine is also known as “levo-atropine, being a laevorotary optical isomer of the third of the three major nightshade alkaloids, atropine”.   As hyoscyamine is a direct precursor in the plant biosynthesis of scopolamine, it is produced via the same metabolic pathway, thus its presence depends in part on the plant's metabolism.

Hyoscyamine is an antagonist of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (antimuscarinic). It blocks the action of acetylcholine at parasympathetic sites in sweat glands, salivary glands, stomach secretions, smooth muscle in the gastrointestinal tract, and the central nervous system.  When used by the medical profession, these activities are being invoked.  It clearly has much the same limited use as all the other anticholinergics, but it does have a use. 


In general, atropine counters the "rest and digest" activity of glands regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system.  It thus invokes the sympathetic nervous system - the fight and flight system.  It thus  increases cardiac output and heart rate  and 'dries secretions'. 

At comparable doses, hyoscyamine has 98 per cent of the anticholinergic power of atropine. The other major belladonna-derived drug scopolamine has 92 per cent of the antimuscarinic potency of atropine.

Atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine are the most powerful known anticholinergics in existence.

Over the counter preparations of hyoscyamine have been a source of hallucinatory experience for several years, for example:  

Keeler. M. H., and Kane, F. J., Jr.: The Use of Hyoscyamine as a Hallucinogen and lntoxicant, Amer. J. Psychiat. 124:852-854, 1967;  and
Bernstein, S., and Leff, R.: Toxic Psychoses From Over-the-Counter Preparations (Ltrs. to Ed.). Amer. J. Psychiat. 124:1270, 1968.


 Dr Duke's analysis

If we now take a look at Dr Duke's analysis of the activity of Atropine we can compare this with its medical uses in more detail.

Biological Activities of HYOSCYAMINE-SULFATE

  • Anticholinergic; MAR;
  • Antideliriant; MAR;
  • Antimanic; MAR;
  • Antiparkinsonian; MAR;
  • Antiulcer; 400-1,000 ug/1-3 x day/man/; MAR;
  • Antivertigo; 125-250 ug/3-4 x/day/man; MAR;

 MAR = Martindale's



Biological Activities of HYOSCYAMINE

Analgesic; WBB;

Anticholinergic; 150-300 ug 4 x/day/man; M29;

Antidote (Anticholinesterase); M29;

Antiemetic; JBH;

Antiherpetic; EMP5:193;

Antimeasles; EMP5:193;

Antimuscarinic; M29;


Antiparkinsonian; JBH;

Antipolio; EMP5:193;

Antisialogogue; JBH;

Antispasmodic; JE26:75;

Antiulcer; M29;




Antiviral; EMP5:193;


Bronchorelaxant; KCH;

CNS-Depressant; KCH;

CNS-Stimulant; JBH;


Mydriatic; JBH;



Psychoactive; WBB;


Toxic; PJB1(1):177;


  •  WBB: Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. E. & S. Livingstone, Ltd. Edinburg & London. 1457 pp.
  • M29: Martindale's
  • JBH: Jeffery B. Harborne and H. Baxter, eds. 1983. Phytochemical Dictionary. A Handbook of Bioactive Compounds from Plants. Taylor & Frost, London. 791 pp.
  • EMP5:193, JE26:75, PJB1\(1\):177: Jim Duke's personal files
  • KCH: Huang, K. C. 1993. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 388 pp.

Toxic means toxic

A 19-y old male who intentionally ingested an unknown quantity of Datura stramonium seeds to experience its hallucinogenic effects was found dead. Hyoscyamine and scopolamine were detected in postmortem blood and urine. Blood concentrations of hyoscyamine and scopolamine were 1.1 and 0.2 microg/mL, respectively; in urine only hyoscyamine at 14.2 microg/mL was found. This fatality presents the highest blood concentrations ever reported and confirms that death was due to Datura Stramonium seed ingestion.  PMID:  15080209

 Uses by the medical profession and pharmaceutical companies

Hyoscamine is used in medical procedures where salivation and urine production would be inconvenient - such as surgery or for Endoscopy or Radiology.  It is administered 30 to 60 minutes prior to the time of induction of anesthesia or given at the time the preanaesthetic narcotic or sedative are administered.  It is not without its risks.

But unlike all the other anticholinergics Hyoscyamine is sold over the counter.  Brand names for hyoscyamine include:

from Drugs.com

Generic Name: hyoscyamine
Brand Name: Anaspaz, Cystospaz, Ed Spaz, HyoMax, HyoMax DT, HyoMax FT, HyoMax SL, HyoMax SR, Hyospaz, Hyosyne, IB-Stat, Levbid, Levsin, Levsin SL, Levsinex SR, NuLev, Nulev, Symax Duotab, Symax FasTab, Symax SL, Symax SR, Cystospaz-M, A-Spas S/L, Donnamar, Hyosol, Spasdel, Oscimin


The profile of Hyoscamine is no different to that of Atropine or Scopolamine, and in fact Dr Duke even goes so far as to say Hyoscamine is Toxic.  But, whereas Atropine and Scopolamine seem to be treated with the respect they deserve, Hyoscamine is being promoted for Irritable Bowel and urinary incontinence - and it is being promoted for children too.  There is a paediatric version for IBS and urinary incontinence.  According to Drugs.com:


Hyoscyamine produces many effects in the body, including relief from muscle spasms.
Hyoscyamine also reduces the fluid secretions of many organs and glands in the body, such as the stomach, pancreas, lungs, saliva glands, sweat glands, and nasal passages.
Hyoscyamine is used to treat many different stomach and intestinal disorders, including peptic ulcer and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also used to control muscle spasms in the bladder, kidneys, or digestive tract, and to reduce stomach acid. Hyoscyamine is sometimes used to reduce tremors and rigid muscles in people with symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Hyoscyamine is also used as a drying agent to control excessive salivation, runny nose, or excessive sweating

This is a completely different profile to that for Atropine and Scopolamine, yet they are all anticholinergics. At the same time reports are appearing all the time about the toxic nature of Hyoscamine, for example:

An incident wherein more than 30 people were poisoned with a herbal infusion during a meditation session is described. The clinical features observed were hallucinations, aggression, agitation, amnesia, mydriasis, dry skin, tachycardia, hyperthermia, hypotension, collapse, coma and respiratory depression. All patients recovered, although mechanical ventilation was required in some instances. A portion of the herbal infusion was found to contain atropine/hyoscyamine, scopolamine (hyoscine), harmine, and other alkaloids. PMID:  12208022

Something has gone very wrong here.  It is impossible to work out if there are deaths, as these 'medicines' are being hidden within other medicines maskerading as yet other medicines.

We have added quite a number of observations showing how dangerous this natural chemical is if mis-used.  

Side effects

Side effects include the same effects experienced with Atropine and Scopolamine and include dry mouth and throat, blurred vision, restlessness, dizziness, arrythmia, flushing, and faintness. An overdose will cause headache, nausea, vomiting, and central nervous system symptoms including disorientation, hallucinations,  short-term memory loss, coma and death .


Stop using hyoscyamine and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • diarrhea;
  • confusion, hallucinations;
  • unusual thoughts or behavior;
  • fast, pounding, or uneven heart rate;
  • rash or flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling); or
  • eye pain.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness, feeling nervous;
  • blurred vision, headache;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • nausea, vomiting, bloating, heartburn, or constipation;
  • changes in taste;
  • problems with urination;
  • decreased sweating;
  • dry mouth; or
  • impotence, loss of interest in sex, or trouble having an orgasm.

The following comes from eHealthme who record the actual side effects being experienced and reported as Adverse Drug reports to the doctor

eHealthme Most common Hyoscyamus niger side effects:

  • Nausea And Vomiting
  • Hypokalemia
  • Movement - Uncoordinated
  • Hyponatremia
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Abnormal Behaviour
  • Insomnia
  • Vasculitis Cerebral


References and further reading

1.  Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs – Elsevier publishing
2.  A Modern Herbal – Mrs M Grieve
3.  Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances – Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants and Venomous Animals pub. Wiley
4.  The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications - Christian Ratsch

The EROWID entry for Hyoscamine can be found by following this LINK

  • Forensic Sci Int. 2002 Aug 14;128(1-2):50-2.  Collective poisoning with hallucinogenous herbal tea. Balíková M1.  1Department of Toxicology, Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 1st Faculty of Medicine and Teaching Hospital, Charles University in Prague, Na Bojisti 3, 121 08 Prague 2, Czech Republic. mbali@lfl.cuni.cz

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