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Poison, drugs, and medicine: Giovanni Antonio Scopoli and the history of scopolamine

Poster Details

First Author: S.Scholtz GERMANY

Co Author(s):    L. MacMorris   F. Krogmann   G. Auffarth              

Abstract Details


Using the ingredients of plants to treat diseases has been known for thousands of years. Among other highly active ingredients, plants like belladonna, datura, henbane and mandrake contain the substance scopolamine, named after its discoverer, Giovanni Antonio Scopoli.


International Vision Correction Research Centre, University of Heidelberg, Germany


Selective literature search in books and journal articles via PubMed, Google Scholar and Google.


Giovanni Antonio Scopoli (1723–88), Tyrolean physician and naturalist of the 18th century, was the first to describe the plant from which the alkaloid "Scopolamine“ was isolated: Scopolia carniolica. Scopolamine is used in ophthalmology as mydriatic(pupil dilating) agent in diagnosis and therapy. In general medicine, the substance is used for therapy and prophylaxis of motion sickness, postoperative nausea and as spasmolytic agent treating mild to moderate cramps of the gastrointestinal tract. The World Health Organization includes it in the List of Essential Medicines as one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.


Giovanni Antonio Scopoli was one of the most respected scholars of the eighteenth century. His discovery is with us today: the alkaloid "Scopolamine". Scopoli's interdisciplinary research has profited the fields of ophthalmology, general medicine as well as botany.

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