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Category: Natural chemicals


Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description

....     used to help fight motion sickness  ....

Scopolamine, [also known as levo-duboisine, and hyoscine] is a tropane alkaloid. The antagonistic effects of Scopolamine are similar to atropine.  It exerts its effects by acting as a “competitive antagonist at muscarinic acetylcholine receptors”.  Both are thus  classified as ‘anticholinergic, anti-muscarinic drugs’. 

Scopolamine  is used by the pharmaceutical industry in very low or homeopathically low doses.  It can be found in homeopathic tinctures and powders for example.  It is used to  help fight motion sickness, and is used in patches which deliver the drug at a constant rate over about 72 hours. Oral methods of ingestion also exist, but it is then more difficult to control the dose.  In essence, although scopolamine is often portrayed in the media as a dangerous drug, its anticholinergic properties give it some legitimate medical applications in very minute doses. As an example, in the treatment of motion sickness, the dose, gradually released from a transdermal patch, is only 330 micrograms (µg) per day.  At one time scopolamine was used to help with insomnia because of its depressive effects, but this caused some problems Ref “Bernstein, S., and Leff, R.: Toxic Psychosis from Sleeping Medicines Containing Scopolamine, New Eng. J. Med. 277:638-639, 1967


In rare cases, unusual reactions to ordinary doses of scopolamine have occurred including confusion, agitation, rambling speech, hallucinations, paranoid behaviors, and delusions.

The symptoms of too high a dose are:

disorientation, delirium, dilated pupils, somnolence, much accelerated pulse rate, hypotension, dryness of the mouth’

and from another source

‘blurred vision, mydriasis, psychosis, hallucinations, difficulty in urinating and occasionally rashes and erythema’. 

All the classic symptoms of anticholinergens.


Meyler's analysis

Meyler's side effects of drugs
Scopolamine regained some popularity with its introduction in the form of transdermal patches for use as an antinauseant and anti secretory agent.  Use of these forms, however, does not lessen the chance of unwanted atropine type effects – confusion, delirium and psychosis are well documented”

Mrs Grieve

In Mrs Grieve’s modern herbal the emphasis is on its Central nervous system depressive effects, it says

a cerebral sedative, especially in manias, hysteria and drug habits, while in insomnia and epilepsy it increases the effects of other drugs, such as morphine and bromides…. In the 1900s the combination of morphine and scopolamine was introduced as a means of producing anaesthesia, under the name ‘Twilight Sleep’ either alone or as a preliminary to chloroform or ether, as its peculiar effect in large doses is to cause loss of memory including that of pain.  However, the anaesthesia has often been found to be unsatisfactory, whilst the mortality has been high.


In reality, scopolamine, when used with morphine, did not decrease the pain of labour but caused the mother to forget the pain and the birth. It had other effects too.  The transfer of the drug to the foetus through the placenta, caused depressed respiration and cardiac function in the baby, and caused, in some cases, the death of the mother and child.

I further quote:

Scopolamine has been used in the past to treat addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The patient was given frequent doses of scopolamine until they were delirious. This treatment was maintained for 2 to 3 days after which they were treated with pilocarpine. After recovering from this they were said to have lost the acute craving to the drug to which they were addicted. 

Are we surprised?

Dr James Duke

Dr Duke's phytochemical database provides a list of the activities of scopolamine and the list is quite extensive:

Biological Activities of SCOPOLAMINE

Allergenic; M&R650;

Amnesigenic; 600 ug/man/ivn; M29;


Anesthetic; MAR;

AntiMeniere's; M29;

Antianoxic; M29;


Anticholinergic; 1.5 mg/kg orl rat; BBE M11;

Anticonvulsant; 5 mg/kg ipr mus; BBE;

Antideliriant; MAR;

Antidote (Anticholinesterase); M29;

Antidote (Tetrodotoxin); ACM:411;

Antiemetic; M29;

Antiherpetic; EMP5:193;

Antihiccup; 300 ug/man/; MAR;


Antimanic; M29;

Antimeasles; EMP5:193;

Antimuscarinic; M29;

Antiparkinsonian; MAR;


Antipolio; EMP5:193;

Antisialogogue; M29;

Antispasmodic; JBH;


Antiulcer; M29;

Antivertigo; 500 ug/3-days/transdermal; M29;

Antiviral; EMP5:193;


CNS-Depressant; IWU;


Cyclopegic; M29;

Dermatitigenic; M&R651;

Hyperkinetic; 1 mg/kg ipr mus; FT61:209.1990;

Hypnotic; MAR;

Mydriatic; 1 mg/kg scu; BBE M29;


Preanesthetic; M11;


Sedative; 0.5-1 mg/orl/man; WOI;

Sedative; 13 mg/kg scu rat; BBE;

Tachycardic; M29;


 MAR & M29 = Martindale's
M\&R650, BBE, ACM 4:11, EMP5:193, M\&R651, FT61:209.1990, BBE M29 Jim Duke's personal files
BBE: Borchard, R. E., Barnes, C. D., and Eltherton, L. G. 1991. Drug Dosage in Laboratory Animals: A Handbook. (3rd Ed.) The Telford Press, Inc., P. O. Box 287, Caldwell NJ 07006.
IWU: Iwu, M.M. 1993. Handbook of African Medicinal Plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 435 pp.
WOI: ANON. 1948-1976. The Wealth of India raw materials. Publications and Information Directorate, CSIR, New Delhi. 11 volumes.



How it works

Why do some people get hallucinations [and worse] from Scopolamine? They are overdosing on an an anticholinergic  - it causes paralysis of the sensory system and  the subjugation of the reasoning function principally via the gradual elimination of memory; scopolamine has a profound effect on memory . 


Ardila A, Moreno C - Scopolamine intoxication as a model of transient global amnesia Brain Cogn. 1991 Mar 17;15(2):236-45
In Colombia (South America) during recent decades the administration of scopolamine, extracted from plants belonging to the Datura or Brugmansia genus, has become an important neurologic and toxicologic phenomenon. These extracts have been popularly known as "Burundanga." Chemical characteristics and clinical features of scopolamine intoxication are described. Anterograde amnesia and submissive behavior found in patients intoxicated with scopolamine are analyzed. Burundanga intoxication is related to other toxic phenomena found in different countries and similitudes with transient global amnesia are emphasized.


References and further reading




Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs – Elsevier publishing

A Modern Herbal – Mrs M Grieve

Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances – Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants and Venomous Animals pub. Wiley

The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications - Christian Ratsch





As the drug scopolamine, trade names include, Scopace, Transderm-Scop ,and  Maldemar.  These drugs have also been placed under the class of pharmaceutical to which they apply, for example, anti-emetic.

Related observations