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Atropine

Synonym: (R,S)-Hyoscyamin, DL-Hyoscyamin, "Belladonna"
German: Atropin

1 Definition

Atropine is a toxic alkaloid that occurs naturally in plants of the Solanaceae family such as mandragon, angel trumpet, thorn apple, death cherry or henbane.

2 Chemistry

The chemical formula for atropine is C17H23NO3, the molar mass is 289,37 g/mol. Chemically atropine is a racemate of D- and L-hyoscyamin.

Atropine is apparent as colorless crystals with a melting point between 115 and 117 °C. It is hardly soluble in water; soluble in ethanol, ether, fatty oils and chloroform. On the other side atropine sulfate, which is often used in pharmaceuticals, is easily soluble in water.

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3 Pharmacological effect

Atropine acts parasympatholytic, meaning it reduces the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system by displacing acetylcholine from the muscarinic receptors. This leads to a wide variety of pharmacological effects.


 Organ system  Effect
Heart Heart rate increase (tachykardia)
Acceleration of the av-conduction
Lungs Bronchodilatation
Eye Mydriasis
Sweat glands Reduced sweat production

4 Medical application

Atropine has been used as a drug for a long time. In 1852 it already was mentioned in the Codex medicamentarius Hamburgensis. One of the first applications for the atropine was the treatment of asthma. For that it was either applied as an injection or in form of a so called asthma-cigarette. These therapies have been discontinued later due to their severe side effects.

Nowadays atropine is mostly used in emergency medicine as well as a topical application in ophthalmology (drug induced mydriasis). Atropine is administered in cases of alkyl phosphate poisoning and for arrhythmias bradycardia, whereat the atrium is not blocked. It has to be taken into consideration that low dosages can lead to paradox bradycardia.

5 Poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning are readening of the skin (erythema), mydriasis, tachycardia and disorientation with possible hallucinations. The uptake of a lethal dosage leads to loss of consciousness and respiratory paralysis. As a specific antidote for severe intoxication physostigmin can be considered.

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