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Sunday, September 18, 2011

BLACK NIGHTSHADE - TOXIC OR EDIBLE? HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF BLACK NIGHTSHADE


BLACK NIGHTSHADE, SOLANUM NIGRUM
Depending on where you live Black nightshade may be highly poisonous or edible. In Europe the varieties are poisonous, but in Africa, Asia and Indonesia, the plant is used like a leafy green vegetable, such as kale or Swiss chard. The fruit is also eaten and the plant is used as medicine. It is a member of the Solonaceae family of plants so is related to Belladonna, Spiny or Yellow-berried Nightshade, aubergines, Nipple fruit, potatoes, tomatoes, Cape gooseberries, tomatillos and red and green chillies to name but a few other plants in the family.
  In Europe and North America the black nightshade is a troublesome weed which is bad news for livestock, but in Asia and Africa it is a minor food crop and scientists are actively encouraging its growth and use as it contains the minerals calcium, iron and phosphorous as well as some of the B-complex vitamins, (B1, 2, 3), and vitamins A and C.  The unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine, but the ripe fruit is made into jams, preserves and pies; like sloes, the taste improves after a frost.
  The juice from the plant was used by the ancient Arab physicians for burns and ulcers, and the fresh, bruised leaves eased the pain of inflammation in such ailments as gout, and rheumatism. The juice has been used for ringworm, gout and with vinegar for earache.
  The plant grows to about 2 feet tall and can have a foot spread, with the flowers appearing from July to September, giving way to berries in autumn which begin green and then turn black when ripe. The whole plant is harvested in autumn and dried for later use.
  In Asia the plant has been used to treat intermittent fevers such as malaria, and to reduce inflammation. It promotes sweating too and is used as a diuretic and to moisture and soften the roughest of skin. It also has sedative and narcotic properties and is a purgative.
  The leaves, stems and roots can be applied externally as a poultice or used as a wash for skin problems. Extracts from the plant have been shown to have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. The juice of the fruit has been used to stop the pain of toothache, and analgesic ointments are made from the plant which are applied locally. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used in combination with other herbs for heart diseases. In Iran it has been used for centuries as a diuretic, while the ancient Greeks used it to reduce inflammation, externally. It has also been used in remedies for cirrhosis of the liver as an antiseptic (juice from the leaves and fruit) and as a laxative- but don’t be tempted to use it- try senna instead! The plant IS poisonous except in Asia, parts of Africa and Indonesia where it is used as food.

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