NIPPLE FRUIT - ONE OF NATURE'S JOKES? MEDICINAL BENEFITS AND USES OF NIPPLE FRUIT
The Nipple fruit is so-called because the waxy yellow fruit this member of the nightshade produces looks like a human breast. It is also called “Titty fruit” for the same reason, and Cow’s Udder, also understandable and The Apple of Sodom. It is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family so it’s a close relative of the aubergine, as well as the tomato and potato. Like other members of the Solanaceae family it is poisonous, although the unripe fruit is cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It has a waxy yellow skin and large velvety leaves with purple veins, and fuzzy hairs. Its flowers are white through to pink-purple, and the seeds inside the fruit are red-brown. The fruit is actually a berry. It’s a native of South America, but has become naturalized in the Caribbean and Central America. The juice of the fruit has detergent properties and is used instead of washing powder to wash clothes, so it is a little like reetha, the soap nut in this respect. You have to beware of the thorns on this plant, which run along the branches and stems.
The green leaves which are poisonous apparently contain vitamin C, and the fruit has the minerals calcium phosphorous and iron, as well as some of the B-complex vitamins, bioflavonoids and amino acids.
However, it is the glycoalkaloid solamargine and a furoshanol glycoside, indioside D as well as solasonine which have all been shown to have inhibitory effects on human cancer cell lines, especially as regards lung, breast and liver cancer cells. It contains two glycoalkaloids which can kill molluscs, and the snails which serve as an intermediate host for schistosome, which are responsible for schistosomiosis (bilharzia) which affects more than 200 million people throughout the Far East, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. According to a WHO 2004 report, as many as 200,000 die annually from the disease, so a compound which can kill the hosts, can help reduce the spread of the disease.
The leaves are reputed to have pain-killing properties and slightly narcotic ones. The fruit is a purgative and phlegmatic, and a decoction of the roots is given for asthma and as a general tonic. The leaves are made into poultices for piles. The juice from the leaves is used in some traditional medicine systems for skin problems and a decoction of the leaves is given for gastrointestinal problems. It is said that the roots, boiled with sour milk and grain porridge is used for syphilis.
Solanum mammosum has much the same properties as other plants in the Solanaceae family, and more research is being carried out to see how they can benefit us.