Dangerous Garden by David Stuart: Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives

by DerdriuMarriner

Dangerous Garden by David Stuart describes the quest for plants to access gods, change lives, end disease and pain, enhance sex, expand minds, and kill.

Dangerous Gardens contain cure-all, do-nothing, feel-good, poisonous beauties

Dangerous Garden by author, botanist, columnist, gardener, and nurseryman David Stuart acknowledges individual significance and societal impacts from the quest for plants to:

• access gods;
• change lives;
• drive sex;
• end disease and pain;
• expand minds;
• kill.

The 2004 release begins with an introduction to two of 10,000+ world-renowned medicinal plants. The Harvard University Press publication considers:

• the placebo effect of justified or unjustified beliefs in curers and cures since the time of Roman imperial physician Galen (129 – 199?);
• the recorded uses of rhubarb, from Roman aphrodisiac to Medieval plague-fighter to sixteenth-century ague and syphilis remedies to twenty-first century late-spring pie-filling;
• the twentieth-century vetting of cancer-, convulsion-, paralysis-causing colchicine in arthritis- and gout-prescribed, saffron-flavored, stimulating autumn crocus (Colchicum).


Website: http://www.david-stuart.co.uk/dangerous.html


Modern statue honors Galen of Bergama (Pergamum), 2nd century CE Greek physician/philosopher/surgeon:

Identifying plant remedies for his pharmaceutical formulations numbers among Galen's many contributions to contributions.
Bergama, İzmir Province, western Anatolian peninsula, western Turkey
Bergama, İzmir Province, western Anatolian peninsula, western Turkey

Dangerous Gardens derail no afflictions other than malaria


Chapter One describes ineffectively attacking epidemics of:

  • bubonic plague by devil’s bit scabious, dog’s mercury, gold-crowned blessed thistle, laser-wort, Madonna lily, mallow, nettles, opium-poppy, rue, saltpeter, valerian, willow-gentian, yellow monkshood;  
  • HIV by aloe vera, pau d’arco, purple coneflower;
  • leprosy by alkanet, calamint, cannabis, cashew nut, choulmoogra, darnell grass, dodder, euphorbia, frankincense, garden anemone, neem, opium, spikenard, tamarind;
  • malaria by febrifuges, hemp, neem, qat.

The second chapter explains bolstering organs with:

  • belladonna for vision;
  • foxglove for heart;
  • licorice, rest-harrow, sweet cicely, vetch for respirations;
  • wormwoods for digestion.

Chapter Three finds controlling pain on the treatment agenda of:

  • aconite;
  • chamomile, Chinese lanterns;
  • feverfew;
  • galbanum, golden-berry;
  • hemp, henbane;
  • jaborandi;
  • meadowsweet, mountain-peony;
  • night-blooming cactus;
  • opium-poppy;
  • tormentil;
  • white poplar, willow;
  • yellow-flowering rhododendron. 


Atropa belladonna, known commonly as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a dangerous plant with beneficial and toxic qualities.

Historically Italian women used belladonna berry juice cosmetically for pupil dilation, which was considered seductive but which also could cause vision problems or blindness via prolonged use. As atropine, belladonna is still used today in Ophthalmology.
eye examination: portions of retina as seen through undilated pupil and dilated pupil
eye examination: portions of retina as seen through undilated pupil and dilated pupil

Dangerous Gardens encourage aphrodisiacs, elixirs, hallucinogens, pain-killers, poisons


 The fourth chapter gives as jump-starting or sustaining aphrodisiacs:

  • Chinese foxglove;
  • ephedra;
  • frankincense;
  • mandrake, myrrh;
  • nutmeg;
  • queen-of-the-night cactus;
  • sarsaparilla;
  • yohimbe.

Chapter Five has as euthanistic/fatal options:

  • aconite;
  • belladonna;
  • comfrey;
  • hemlock, hemp, henbane;
  • Madagascar periwinkle, mandrake, mushrooms;
  • opium-poppy;
  • poison-nut, pokeweed;
  • ragwort;
  • Saint John’s wort, senna;
  • thorn-apple, thorough-wort.

The sixth chapter identifies reversing, slowing or stopping biological clocks through reliance upon:

  • almond oil, black briony, linseed oil, olive oil, rosemary for skin health;
  • aniseed, antimony, coriander, fennel, sarsaparilla for weight control;
  • brown-eyed rockrose, linseed, reeds, southern nettle for hair volume;
  • crinum lily, daffodil, fenugreek, mastick, shea, walnut oil, white briony for wrinkle amelioration and prevention;
  • ginseng for healthy longevity;
  • greater celandine, nettle-tree, savin, tormentil for wart prevention and removal. 


Pretty comfrey (Symphylum spp.) is popular in folk medicine and as cultivated or wild plant; US FDA banned its consumption because of dangerous amounts of naturally occurring alkaloids (hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids) which may cause liver failure:

Famed remedies of common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in European folk medicine accompanied the Old World's introduction into the New World.
Las Sołtysowicki (Sołtysowicki Forest), northeastern Wrocław, western Poland
Las Sołtysowicki (Sołtysowicki Forest), northeastern Wrocław, western Poland

Dangerous Gardens furnish effective painkillers, placebos, poisons, psychedelics


Chapter Seven juxtaposes as mind-expanders:

  • cannabis, coca;
  • ephedra;
  • guarana, gum rock-rose;
  • hemp, hoodia;
  • peony;
  • qat;
  • Saint John’s wort, snakeroot;
  • tobacco.

The eighth chapter keeps the focus on mind-related treatments through such hallucinogens as:

  • ayahuasca;
  • bindweed;
  • cannabis, castor oil, Christmas cactus, coyote cactus;
  • kava-kava;
  • morning glory;
  • peyote, prickly pear cactus;
  • sage, San Pedro four-winds cactus, sesame, snuff, sweet potato;
  • thorn-apple;
  • virola;
  • wood-rose.

Concluding pages lead into observations on adaptive, defensive, survivalist agenda behind human-interpreted evil, human-perceived good whereby plants sustain life cycles and natural histories.

Appended acknowledgments, bibliographies, and indices manage repeated access to Dangerous Garden’s culturally enriching, educationally entertaining, and geo-historically enthralling images and information whose real-time configuration simultaneously yields cure-all, do-nothing, feel-good, must-have, watch-out floral beauties. 


Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives by David Stuart ~ Available now via Amazon

Botanist and gardener David Stuart presents double-edged plants of botanical medicine: plant-based remedies as not only soothing and curative but also enslaving and killing.
dangerous plant products



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


berries, flowers, and foliage of deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), also known as belladonna:

a plant with a dangerous beauty
July: Poland, central Europe
July: Poland, central Europe

Sources Consulted


Stuart, David. 2004. Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 


Echinopsis pachanoi (planted by driveway): San Pedro cactus has been used in Andean Mountain regions for healing and religious divination for 3 millennia:

San Pedro cactus contains mescaline, naturally occurring alkaloid hallucinogen ~ Cultivation of San Pedro cactus in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and United States is legal as an ornamental but illegal for consumption.
Luala‘ilua Hills, Maui
Luala‘ilua Hills, Maui
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Photo Jigsaw Puzzle Of Poisonous Plants ~ illustrations of Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna); Fool's Parsley (Aethusa Cynapium); Henbane (Hyoscyamus Niger); Mezereon (Daphne Mezereum); Thorn Apple (Datura Stramonium) ~ Available now via Amazon

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle artwork 5x7 affixed to box top.
dangerous plant products

Poisonous Beauties - Belladonna by Jasmine Becket-Griffith: Framed ~ from Amanti Art ~ Available now via Amazon

Custom built: Antique bronze wood frame with embellished design and green patina
dangerous plant products

Poisonous Beauties - Belladonna by Jasmine Becket-Griffith (born June 4, 1979) ~ Available as Art Print ~ Available now via AllPosters

Print of acrylic painting debuted by Jasmine Becket-Griffith (born June 4, 1979) at Sarasota Medieval Fair 2011 ~ 1st installment in Poisonous Beauties series featuring portraits of faery creatures and various poisonous plants.
Poisonous Beauties I Belladonna

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/21/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/03/2017

frankbeswick, Excellent observation! Alternative, homeopathic, modern and traditional medicine, like surgery, call for a steady hand.

frankbeswick on 04/03/2017

The poison is sometimes in the dose, for in some cases what is poisonous in normal quantities can be used as a medicine by one adept in medical arts.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/03/2017

katiem2, Some of the entries surprise me too even though the author is competent and research tends to verify what he says. Purple coneflowers also are among my favorites too, and I'll have to remember to copy you in serving them up as bird feed this year.

katiem2 on 03/26/2017

Interesting, it is amazing how much the earth provides for our benefit. I grow purple cone flowers, I love them, they are hearty and pretty all season from spring to late fall and it is then they feed the birds. I was surprised to find them on the list.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/25/2016

sandyspider, Yes, indeed! I prefer the plants that are beneficial and nice to smell, taste and view even though I like a good mystery (regarding why a plant is here) and I prefer to know what plants need to be avoided by people, pets and wildlife.

sandyspider on 03/24/2016

It is amazing the effects of plants and what they can do for us.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2016

frankbeswick, That's a very sweet image of your wife seeing to it that you get your mints timely! Me too, I forgot to mention that sometimes mints help me when I need to be alert and concentrated on longer drives.

frankbeswick on 02/04/2016

I take a non-sweetened caffeine drink before I set off, but ensure that I do not drink it all in one go. I like to stop for breaks, when I take some more of it. But a key part of my strategy is to take a good supply of strong mints, which I chew while I drive, for mint is very effective at helping sustain concentration. If my wife is with me she hands me the mints while I drive.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2016

frankbeswick, I drank guaraná as soft drink and as tea when I lived in Brazil. It's refreshing in both forms, and I've had them, but only rarely, on this side of the pond when I've gotten together -- although not recently -- with Brazilian acquaintances.
Otherwise, I haven't sought them out because I tend to think they taste and work best when taken with the drinks and foods they're used to being served with. So I've never thought of guaraná in terms of a stimulating drink on its own but as a Brazilian drink to be taken in tandem with Brazilian appetizers, foods, or snacks.
On long drives, I settle for discreetly flavored water, mineral water, or water since I like cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, and water is wonderful water as long as it's not too cold or too hot.
What do you usually choose?

frankbeswick on 02/04/2016

How safe do you think guarana is? I know that it is not poisonous, but is a stimulant. However, in my case I have a problem that I suffer sometimes from palpitations, and so I have to be very careful with stimulants, though the main preventative strategy is to avoid stress. When doing long drives I like to take a drink that sustains concentration, but I am unsure whether to take guarana products.

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