Solanum nigrum / Zwarte nachtschade
Solanum nigrum is een veel voorkomend onkruid in groententuinen, meestal wordt het niet hoger dan een 30 cm maar hier in mijn woonplaats langs de wegkanten vind ik exemplaren die wel een meter hoog en breed worden. Deze Zwarte nachtschade hoort bij de fameuze familie van de aardappel maar ook bij de zeer giftige en hallucinerende Wolfskers, waarmee het de zwart glimmende, verleidelijke bessen gemeen heeft. Deze bessen worden in sommige landen als lekkernij gegeten en in andere landen als giftig beschouwd. Toch biedt deze Zwarte nachtschade veel mogelijkheden als medicijn en als voedingsgewas.
Zwarte nachtschade: geschiedenis en etymologie
De Zwarte nachtschade heeft in de volksgeneeskunst eveneens een rol gespeeld. Zo werden de bladeren en ook de bessen gelegd op ontstoken en pijnlijke plekken. De plant werd ook nog aangewend bij fijt in de vinger en koudvuur. Maar om zich tegen steenpuisten te vrijwaren was het voldoende de plant tussen zijn kleren te naaien. Tegenover dit gebruik als geneeskruid stond een ander geluid, van A. Kircherus, want in zijn 1682 verschenen werk ‘d’Onderaardse Wereld in haar Goddelijk maaksel en wonderbare uitwerkselen aller Dingen,’ lezen we ‘als men aarde neemt van eene plaats, daar veel doode beesten zijn verrot en vergaan, en dezelfde met verscheide vergiftige Mijnsappen bevochtigt, in de opene locht stelde, so sal se Bilsenkruid, Nachtschade, en dier gelijke fenijninge kruiden vortbrengen, die daarna haar geslacht met saad voortsetten.’
Men neemt thans aan dat Solanum is afgeleid van het Latijnse solari: pijnstillen, kalmeren of tot bedaren brengen, vanwege de pijnstillende werking van enkele soorten van het geslacht. Men meende vroeger dat het was afgeleid van solare: woest maken, alsof men door een zonnesteek (zon: sol) getroffen was. Maar solare is niet afgeleid van sol, maar van solus: alleen. Hoogstens kan men dus spreken van woest maken in de zin van eenzaam maken.
Zowel het Latijnse niger als het Nederlandse zwarte duidt op de zwarte kleur van de bes. De naam ‘Nachtschade is reeds zeer oud, want in de middeleeuwen heette zij reeds Nachtschaduwe en in het Oudhoogduits nahtscato, want men meende dat de plant de belichaming van een demon was, die een gevaarlijke duivelse macht bezat. Men hield het kruid voor de belichaming van een toverkracht bezittende figuur, die de macht bezat boze geesten en nachtmerries te lijf te gaan. In het Duits heet deze soort Nachtschatten en deze naam is terug te voeren op een oude aanwending tegen Nachtschatten of nachtmerries, zo deelt M. Höfler mede. Volgens C. L. Rochholz ligt aan de naam misschien de volgende mythische voorstelling ten grondslag: de Noorse godin Skadi (schade of straf), de dochter van de reus Thjazi die door Thor gedood werd, gaat bewapend en bekleed met pantser en helm naar de plaats Asgadr om haar vader te wreken.
We komen haar niet alleen tegen als vrouwelijke soldaat, maar ook als een nachtelijke schaduwkoningin. Behalve de veel voorkomende naam Zwarte nachtschade, komen we nog tegen Nachtscha, Nachtschaelje en Zwarte Nacht.
De naam Belladonna op de Veluwe duidt op de sterke gelijkenis van de zwarte bes met die van de zeer giftige wolfskers (Atropa belladónna). Men meende dan ook dat beide bessen dezelfde giftige eigenschap bezaten. Met betrekking tot de Wolfskers, in ons land thans zeldzaam voorkomend, is dit juist, maar voor de Zwarte nachtschade is dit niet het geval: pas bij grote hoeveelheden gegeten is dit wel zo. Kan de verwarring misschien reeds ontstaan zijn in de dertiende eeuw, toen Albertus Magnus de plant beschreef onder meer als Uva lupi: Wolfsbes; hij beschouwde de bes dus als giftig. Behalve Belladonna komt in het Sallandse en Zuidhollandse de naam Dolbes voor (de Wolfskers heeft ook een volksnaam die luidt Dolle bes). Dit dol wijst hier op de giftigheid en niet op gek of zinneloos. Vele namen attenderen op de bessen. Zo komen behalve Dolbes, Dolle beien en Dolle beiers voor. Op Walcheren spreekt men behalve vanZwarte beiers, ook van Groene beiers, want in hun jeugdstadium zijn de bessen groen. De afkeer van de bevolking voor deze bessen komt tot uiting in de volgende volksnamen: Hondsbei, Hondsbessen, Honnebeien, Hounebeien want honden stonden vroeger niet in een al te goede reuk. In een middeleeuws glossarium komen we de naam Hundesberereeds tegen. Dit kan eveneens het geval geweest zijn met Kattebeien op Texel. Maar ook kan het in verband staan met het feit dat katten zich nogal tot deze plant voelen aangetrokken.
Solanum nigrum L.- A review
TS Mohamed Saleem, C Madhusudhana Chetty, S Ramkanth, M Alagusundaram, K Gnanaprakash, VS Thiruvengada Rajan, S Angalaparameswari
Solanum nigrum Linn. (Solanaceae) commonly known as 'Black nightshade' that have been extensively used in traditional medicine in India and other parts of world to cure liver disorders, chronic skin ailments (psoriasis and ringworm), inflammatory conditions, painful periods, fevers, diarrhoea , eye diseases, hydrophobia, etc. It has been found that Solanum nigrum contains the substances, such as total alkaloid, steroid alkaloid, steroidal saponins and glycoprotein, exhibiting anti-tumor activity. In Indian traditional medicine, the plant is used as a hepatoprotective agent. In this review, we have explored the phyto-pharmacological properties of the Solanum nigrum plant and compiled its vast pharmacological applications to comprehend and synthesize the subject of its potential image of multipurpose medicinal agent.
Keywords: Solanum nigrum Linn. Hepatoprotective agents, Glycoprotein, Black nightshade, Solasonine
The plant Solanum nigrum Linn (Solanaceae) [Figure 1] commonly called as black night shade in English, Makoi in Hindi, Kachchipandu in Telugu, Munatakali in Tamil, Piludi in Gujarati & Kamuni in Marathi. It is an erect, divaricately branched, unarmed, suffrutescent annual herb. Leaves ovate or oblong, sinuate-toothed or lobed, glabrous; flowers 3-8 in extra-axcillary drooping subumbellate cymes; fruits purplish black or reddish berries; seeds many, discoid, yellow, minutely.
Habitat and Distribution
These species are only semicultivated in a few countries in Africa and Indonesia, and are largely utilized as a vegetable and fruit source through harvesting from plants growing spontaneously as weeds in cultivated fields, or in weedy plant communities, under trees, along fences and roads, in shaded areas, near buildings and on waste land. They therefore constitute a volunteer crop. Some communities semi cultivates the vegetable in home gardens or on fertile land portions near homesteads. There are a few reports of the cultivation of the garden huckleberry for its fruits in North America.
Ethnomedical Properties and Uses
The berries and leaves are mainly used for medicinal purposes, besides the other parts of the whole plant. The leaves are used as poultice for rheumatic and gouty joints (Disease causing the joints to swell and become painful), skin diseases, used in the treatment of anti tuberculosis and are said to produce Diaphoresis. Leaves are also used in dropsy, nausea and nervous disorders. The decoction of the berries and flowers are useful in cough, erysipelas (specific, acute, cutaneous inflammatory disease caused by a haemolytic streptococcus and are characterized by redhot). These are remedy for pulmonary tuberclosis and Bronchitis, diuretic. The juice of the berries used as an antidiarrhoea, opthalmopathy and hydrophobia. It is also used in anasarca and heart disease. Berries are used to posses tonic, diuretic and cathartic properties. Seeds are useful in giddiness and dipsia. They are also useful in inflammations and skin diseases. The roots are useful in otopathy, ophthalmopathy, rhinopathy and hepatitis. The whole plant used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, cardiotonic, digestive, diuretic, laxative, diaphoretic, sedative, swelling, cough, asthma The plant is also effective in curing cardiopathy, leprosy, haemorrhoids, nephropathy, ophthalmopathy, dropsy and general debility. Decoction of the plant depresses the CNS and reflexes of the spinal cord ,,,, .
Phytoconstituents from Solanum nigrum
Phytochemical investigation of whole plant reported that which contain alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, saponins, glycosides, proteins, carbohydrates, coumarins & phytosterols. It has been found that Solanum nigrum contains the substances, such as total alkaloid  , steroid alkaloid  , steroidal saponins  and glycoprotein  , exhibiting anti-tumor activity  . Researchers studied the chemical characterization of osmotin - like protein from this plant  . New glycoprotein (150 KDa) has been isolated from this plant which consist carbohydrate content (69.74%) and protein content (30.26%) which contain more than 50% hydrophobic aminoacids such as glycine and proline  . Small unripe fruits of Solanum nigrum had a high concentration of solasodine, but both the concentration and the absolute amount per fruit decreases with fruit maturation  . The berries of Solanum nigrum from New Zealand have recently been studied and found to contain 4 steroidal alkaloid glycosides, Solamargine, Solasonine, α and b- solanigrine. The berries of Solanum nigrum have been found to contain a saturated steroidal genin, which has been identified as tigogenin by mixed melting point and IR spectroscopy  . One spirosestanol glycoside and two furostanol glycosides have been isolated from a methanol extract of the stems and roots of Solanum nigrum  . Some researchers found the presence of ascorbic acid in the fruits of Solanum nigrum and the concentration of ascorbic acid is more in fruit than root  . Six new steroidal saponins, solanigrosides C-H, and one known saponin, degalactotigonin, were isolated from the whole plant of Solanum nigrum  . Some researchers isolated two new steroidal saponins, named nigrumnins I and II, together with two known saponins were obtained from the whole plant of Solanum nigrum  . Recently phytochemical analysis of Solanum nigrum has resulted in the isolation of two novel disaccharides. Their structures were determined as ethyl b - D -thevetopyranosyl-(1-4)- b- D -oleandropyranoside and ethyl b- D -thevetopyranosyl-(1-4)- a - D-oleandropyranoside, respectively, by chemical and spectroscopic methods  . Solanum nigrum seeds have high lipid content. Their protein content and minerals elements (Mg being prominent) are considerable and Solanum nigrum oil is an important source of linoleic acid  .
Pharmacology of Solanum nigrum L.
Many investigations showed that extracts of Solanum nigrum suppressed the oxidant mediated DNA-sugar damage, and the plant exerted cytoprotection against gentamicin- induced toxicity on Vero cells and anti-neoplastic activity against Sarcoma 180 in mice. More recent studies revealed an inhibitory effect of extracts of Solanum nigrum on 12-O - tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA)- induced tumor promotion in HCT-116 cells, and a remarkable hepatoprotective effect of the ethanol extract of dried fruits of Solanum nigrum against CCl 4 - induced liver damage. Recently, Lin et al., demonstrated that the water extract of Solanum nigrum contains several antioxidants, such as gallic acid, PCA, catechin, caffeic acid, epicatechin, rutin and narigenin, and possesses strong antioxidative activity in vitro , .
The ethanol extract of the fruit of Solanum nigrum was studied for its neuropharmacological properties on experimental animals. On intraperitoneal injection, the extract significantly prolonged pentobarbital induced sleeping time, produced alteration in the general behavior pattern, reduced exploratory behavior pattern, suppressed the aggressive behavior, affected locomotor activity and reduced spontaneous motility. The observations suggest that the fruit of Solanum nigrum possesses potential CNS-depressant action  .
The protective effects of water extract of Solanum nigrum against liver damage were evaluated in carbon tetrachloride (CCl 4 ) - induced chronic hepatotoxicity in rats. The results of this study suggest that Solanum nigrum could protect liver against the CCl 4 induced oxidative damage in rats, and this hepatoprotective effect might be contributed to its modulation on detoxification enzymes and its antioxidant and free radical scavenger effects  . Other research reported that Oral administration of Solanum nigrum significantly reduces thioacetamide-induced hepatic fibrosis in mice, probably through the reduction of TGF-1 secretion  .
Some research reported that a glycoprotein isolated from Solanum nigrum has a strong scavenging effect against reactive oxygen radicals, and growth inhibition effects against JA221 and XL1-Blue. Moreover, it has been reported that glycoprotein has a cytotoxic effect against MCF-7 and HT-29 cells, even at low concentrations , . Glycoprotein has a strong scavenging activity against lipid peroxyl radicals and hypolipidemic activity by increasing the detoxicant enzymes activity through the inhibition of hepatic HMG-CoA reductase in mice  . It has been reported that glycoprotein has a cytotoxic effect on MCF-7 cells  and that the ethanolic extract has anti-proliferative, apoptotic and cytotoxic effects on MCF-7 cells  . Glycoprotein induces apoptosis through the NF-κb activation and inducible nitric oxide (iNO) production in HCT-116 cells  . Glycoprotein has the capacity to modulate the TPA-induced DNA-binding activities of transcription factors and NO production, which play a critical role with respect to cytotoxicity in MCF-7 cells. Therefore, glycoprotein from Solanum nigrum might be one of the agents that blocks TPA-mediated signal responses in tumor cells  .
The 50% ethanol extract of the whole plant of Solanum nigrum was tested in vitro for its cytoprotection against gentamicin induced toxicity on Vero cells. Cytotoxicity was significantly inhibited as assessed by the Trypan blue exclusion assay and mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity (MTT) assay. The test extract also exhibited significant hydroxyl radical scavenging potential, thus suggesting its probable mechanism of cytoprotection  .
Previous reports indicated that Solanum nigrum fruits possess beneficial activity as antiulcer, antioxidant and antitumor promoting agent in rats  . It has been reported earlier that aerial parts of Solanum nigrum is believed to offer its antiulcer action through acid and peptic suppression in aspirin induced ulcerogenesis in rats  . Oral administration of Solanum nigrum displayed a significant antiulcer activity without any apparent toxicological effects, which supports the use of Solanum nigrum in herbal medicine of India for ulcer therapy. The antisecretory activity of Solanum nigrum appears to be mainly related to the inhibition of H+K+ATPase and suppression of gastrin release, while its ulcer protective and ulcer healing activities may be primarily related to an antisecretory effect of Solanum nigrum .
The antioxidant potential of Solanum nigrum leaves extract was evaluated on the modulation of restraint induced oxidative stress. The post treatment of crude extract was found more effective in restoring restraint stress induced oxidative changes in rat plasma than pretreatment. In order to reduce oxidative stress, observed in many pathological conditions, the Solanum nigrum leaves extract can be given both as a prophylactic and therapeutic supplement for scavenging free radicals  . Antioxidant potential of isolated glycoprotein has been evaluated by several methods like DPPH, superoxide radical & hydroxyl radical assay, from these results it has been suggested that glycoprotein has potent antioxidative potential  . It has been reported that the extracts of berries of Solanum nigrum having significant larvicidal, anti-inflammatory and anti convulsant activity ,, . These studies suggest that Solanum nigrum possesses a beneficial activity as an antioxidant, and antitumor promoting, and hepatoprotective agent, although the mechanism for the activity remains to be elucidated.
We conclude from the vast literature study and experimental results analysis that Solanum nigrum, is a traditional remedy for ulcer, hepatotoxicity and cancer, employs various immunological applications in cancer and others. The plant is beneficial in preventing liver toxicity & cytotoxicity thus improving functions of liver and Kidney. It also finds immense utility in abdominal problems, body pain, and central nervous system and brain functioning. Taking great concern of the useful benefits of the plant, it can be advocated as a safe, highly important, medicinal plant for general mankind.
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Antioxidant effect of methanolic extract of Solanum nigrum berries on aspirin induced gastric mucosal injury
Inhibitory effect of Solanum nigrum on thioacetamide-induced liver fibrosis in mice
Crude extracts of hepatoprotective plants, Solanum nigrum and Cichorium intybus inhibit free radical-mediated DNA damage / Sarwat Sultana, Shahid Perwaiz et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology • Volume 45, Issue 3, March 1995, Pages 189-192 / doi:10.1016/0378-8741(94)01214-K
Cytoprotective role of Solanum nigrum against gentamicin-induced kidney cell (Vero cells) damage in vitro / V Prashanth Kumar et al / Fitoterapia • Volume 72, Issue 5, June 2001, Pages 481-486 / doi:10.1016/S0367-326X(01)00266-0
Effect of Dried Fruits of Solanum nigrum LINN against CCl_4-Induced Hepatic Damage in Rats(Toxicology) / Raju Kuppuswamy et al / Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin 26(11) pp.1618-1619 20031101
Antitumor and immunomodulating effects of polysaccharides isolated from Solanum nigrum Linne / Jian Li, qing-wang Li et al / Phytotherapy Research / DOI 10.1002/ptr.2769
Antiulcerogenic and ulcer healing effects of Solanum nigrum (L.) on experimental ulcer models: Possible mechanism for the inhibition of acid formation / Mallika Jainu et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology • Volume 104, Issues 1-2, 8 March 2006, Pages 156-163 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.08.064
Induction of Autophagy and Apoptosis by the Extract of Solanum nigrum Linn in HepG2 Cells / Hui-Mei Lin et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007, 55 (9), pp 3620–3628 / DOI: 10.1021/jf062406m
Arulmozhi V, Krishnaveni M, Karthishwaran K, Dhamodharan G, Mirunalini S. Antioxidant and antihyperlipidemic effect of Solanum nigrumfruit extract on the experimental model against chronic ethanol toxicity. Phcog Mag [serial online] 2010 [cited 2010 Sep 20];6:42-50. Available from: http://www.phcog.com/text.asp?2010/6/21/42/59965
http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nighbl04.html historische info Mrs Grieve
Edible Parts: Fruit; Leaves.
Fruit - cooked[2, 27, 89, 179]. Used in preserves, jams and pies. A pleasant musky taste. Somewhat like a tomato, but much less pleasant, it improves slightly after a frost[K]. Only the fully ripe fruits should be used, the unripe fruits contain the toxin solanine[65, 173, 183]. The fruit contains about 2.5% protein, 0.6% fat, 5.6% carbohydrate, 1.2% ash. The fruit is about 9mm in diameter. Young leaves and new shoots - raw or cooked as a potherb or added to soups[2, 27, 85, 89, 173, 179, 183]. This plant is cultivated as a leaf crop in some areas, but see the notes at the top of the page regarding possible toxicity.
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Fresh weight)
42 Calories per 100g
Water : 86.4%
Protein: 4g; Fat: 0.7g; Carbohydrate: 7.6g; Fibre: 1.6g; Ash: 1.7g;
Minerals - Calcium: 210mg; Phosphorus: 70mg; Iron: 5mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
Vitamins - A: 2000mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.15mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.15mg; Niacin: 1.2mg; B6: 0mg; C: 43mg;
Reference: [ 218]
Antiperiodic; Antiphlogistic; Antipsoriatic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emollient; Febrifuge; Narcotic; Purgative; Sedative.
The whole plant is antiperiodic, antiphlogistic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, narcotic, purgative and sedative[4, 21, 145, 147, 192, 218]. It is harvested in the autumn when both flowers and fruit are upon the plant, and is dried for later use. Use with caution, see notes above on toxicity. The leaves, stems and roots are used externally as a poultice, wash etc in the treatment of cancerous sores, boils, leucoderma and wounds[218, 257]. Extracts of the plant are analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and vasodilator. The plant has been used in the manufacture of locally analgesic ointments and the juice of the fruit has been used as an analgesic for toothaches.
F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see ).
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Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
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Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
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Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
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Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
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Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
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A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
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Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
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A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean.
A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.
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A good flora of the western Himalayas but poorly illustrated. Some information on plant uses.
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A very readable herbal from China, combining some modern methods with traditional chinese methods.
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A pleasant little book about Greek herbs.
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A very well written and illustrated book based on the authors own experiments with living on a native diet.
Reid. B. E. Famine Foods of the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao.
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.
Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
Emboden. W. Narcotic Plants
A lot of details about the history, chemistry and use of narcotic plants, including hallucinogens, stimulants, inebriants and hypnotics.
Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
Larkcom J. Oriental Vegetables
Well written and very informative.
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
Anderson. A. New Scientist
A short item on a couple of soil reclamation plants, Atropa belladonna and Solanum nigrum
Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
Solanum americanum: Food or Poison?
1) A native first called S. nigrum then S. nigrum var. americanum is now called Solanum americanum; 2) a variation of that S. americanum is called Solanum ptycanthum, (p-tic-ANTH-um) and 3) the Old World one is called Solanum nigrum. While they can all be found in most regions of the United States, the S. americanum favors the South, the S. nigrum the mid-west and the S. ptycanthum the north. However, the S. ptycanthum is the most wildly dispersed and reported in most areas. It also comes with less pedigree and is not reported in California.
Some think S. ptycanthum is a North American native, some think it is a cross between the S. americanum and the S. nigrum. One author says the mature fruits might be edible. One serious scientific report says they fed ripe S. ptycanthum berries to rats for 13 weeks with no detectable problems. A third says the Indians, like the Cherokee and the Catabwa, ate the leaves of the S. ptycanthum and held them in high esteem. The latter appeals to me but if the S. ptycanthum is a hybrid with the old world S. nigrum and not a native, how long was it around for the Indians to discover it, use it, and hold it in high esteem? Or do they think it is a hybrid from tens of thousands of years ago, just as they think the S. americanum originated in Australia? When details like that are left out one sometimes wonders how comprehensive some “botanists” are.
Since these three plants look very much alike what are the main features to sort them out (though the plants are highly variable)?
1) The S. americanum has green berries flecked with white. On ripening they turn SHINY black. They also grow in an umbel cluster, that is, the stems of the berries all go back to generally ONE central point. The sepals do not adhere to the fruit. Berries have 40 to 110 seeds. The stem is NOT very hairy. The seedlings do not have maroon under their leaves.
2) The S. ptycanthum looks the S. americanum except it has maroon coloring on the bottom of younger leaves, particularly sprouts. The berry contains 50 to 100 seeds. No doubt it is often confused as an adult with the S. americanum. This would suggest growing some of what you think are either S. americanum or S. ptycanthum and looking at the underside of the young plants, which I am doing just for the heck of it. Some say the adult plant has some red under its leaves.
3) The S. nigrum has DULL black berries when ripe, and they tend to be larger than the other two. Also the stems of the berries do not emerge from one single point but are separated slightly on the stem, staggered like a spike. It tends to have 25 to 30 seeds, 1.8 to 2.2 mm long, but they can range from 15 to 60.
Though ubiquitous and plentiful I avoided the “Black Nightshade” for years because of their reported toxicity even when ripe. Then I learned of a local grocery store manager, from Cuba, who ate the ripe berries all the time here whenever he found them. With a living local guinea pig alive I had to give them a try. My plant de trepidation was the S. americanum and I was careful, starting with a quarter of one berry at a time, then the next day half a berry et cetera, working my way up. They’re quite tasty. I have not eaten a cup of them at a time or baked a pie like Euell Gibbons, but as a trail side nibble the ripe berries have proven quite edible, though the flavor varies from musty to sweet. And while they look black they are actually intensely purple, and probably full of anti-oxidants.
While I have not personally proven this to myself regarding all three species mentioned here — the S. nigrum is not that common locally — some researchers say the stems and leaves of both the S. americanum and S. nigrum are edible after being boiled. And for reasons I will get to, I will add they should be boiled twice, at least 15 minutes each time. These experts also say the berries of each are edible when totally ripe, either raw and cooked. As for the S. ptycanthum, the cooked leaves were eaten by the Indians and, as mentioned earlier, in one experiment the ripe berries fed to rats for three months caused them no harm.
Now, why boil the leaves twice? Three reasons. The first one came from a veterinarian report on the S. nigrum saying the toxicity varies plant to plant and season to season (though I think they were lumping them all collectively as Black Nightshade.) As an example they cite the potato which produces toxic green skin potatoes sometimes depending upon the growing conditions. So while boiling once may work this year, it might not work next year. Next, in Africa they boil the leaves of the S. nigrum twice. How long they boil them is not reported. It was called “a while.” Thirdly, I had a close friend boil until tender the leaves of the S. americanum. He did not boil them a second time because he thought he had the leaves of a totally different plant. He ended up with a headache. That says to me boiling once is not enough even if it is. The older the leaves get the more bitter and toxic they are, so foragers should collect younger leaves and tops and not eat it to excess. Let’s take a closer look at the plants.
Ripe S. americanum berries, edible
The Solanum americanum has alternating leaves that are hairy underneath, particularly at the edges. They are not reddish-purple underneath when young. They can be oval to triangular, no teeth or irregularly teethed. Flowers, five petals, white, have small anthers. The berries are speckled with white until fully ripe whereupon they turn black and shiny — shiny, that’s important. The berries are usually in a cluster, on several short stems originating from one point or nearly one point — one point, that’s important. The sepals do not adhere to the fruit. It tends to have 40 to 110 seeds or more, 1 to 1.5 mm long. Here in Florida it fruits nearly all year long.
Unripe S. americanum berries, toxic
Professor Julia Morton, in her book, Wild Plants for Survival in South Florida, says fully ripe berries of the S. americanum are edible raw or cooked. Young leaves and stems are edible cooked. The Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops also says the cooked leaves and ripe fruit are edible. Sam Thayer in his latest book,Nature’s Garden, also argues they are edible. The leaves contain about 6990 mg of beta carotene per 100g.
The Solanum nigrum, one to three feet high, has dull black fruit — dull that’s important — and the fruit is larger than S. americanum. It can have up to 60 seeds though 15 to 35 is common. Unripe fruit can be light green to almost white. The flower has large anthers, the sepals generally adhere to the fruit, and they are racemiform, that is, not all originating from one point but along the stem (peduncle) — that’s important. Its ripe fruit is edible as are its cooked leaves, according to Edward Schelling and Qi-sheng Ma, Department of Botany, University of Tennessee, as reported on page 223, Vol. 46, Economic Botany, 1992. The Canadian government also reports the berries are edible. Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops reports the cooked leaves and ripe berries are edible.
So that’s fairly clear. Then along comes Solanum ptycanthum. The S. ptycanthum is very similar to the S. americanum but it is mostly hairless and may have leaves with purple undersides, particularly when young. Purplish undersides is important to identifying the young plant. It is also called the Eastern Black Nightshade and the West Indian Nightshade.
The S. ptycanthum is an annual or short-lived perennial that will grow to a yard or so but usually is shorter. It tends to be well- branched in the upper parts and the stems are usually nearly hairless and smooth. Mature leaves alternate, they are pale green, soft, thin, almost translucent, oval to oval-lance shaped. Flowers are small, usually two to five grouped together in a small umbel-like arrangement (from one point) on a short stalk (peduncle) sticking out from the side of the stem rather than from the axil (where the leaf meets the stem.) The flower is star-shaped, white or white tinged with purple with a yellow star, often streaked with purple when growing in cold temperatures. Looks like a potato flower but much smaller. The plant flowers from June until late autumn in northern climes. Fruits green at first but turning black, shiny and juicy when mature, 50 to 110 small flat seeds and 4 to 8 small, hard, irregular stone-like crumbs. Mature fruits of detach at the junction of the pedicel and peduncle (where the stem of the berry meets the stem it was growing on.) I’ve read no reports of the S. americanum having stone-like crumbs, which if true would be one more difference between the S. americanum and the S. ptycanthum.
For the record the leaves and young shoots of Solanum villosum (vee-LOW-some) are used as a leafy vegetable. Its berries are light green or yellow when ripe and the leaves are so hairy that they may feel sticky. Its berries are not edible as far as I know. The leaves of the S. guineense (gin-ee-EN-see) are also edible. And adding to the confusion is the Solanum retroflexum, fomerlySolanum burbankii. Its cooked leaves and ripe fruit are edible. As its old scientific name indicates, it is of hybrid origin. The plant was reportedly bred by Luther Burbank in the early 1900s and is a hybrid of S. villosum and S. guineense, though that may be in dispute. S. retroflexum is compact, typically growing to a height of one to two feet and can fruit when only four-inches tall. The fruit is dark blue-purple when ripe. Green (unripe) fruits are toxic.
Generally said a Black Nightshade plant can produce up to 178,000 seeds per plant. There are about 2,000 seeds to a gram. The plant can be propagated by stem cuttings. Under cultivation leaves and stem tops are regularly harvested. The composition of 100 g edible portion of “African” nightshade leaves (I presume S. nigrum) is water 87.8 g, 39 calories, protein 3.2 g, fat 1g, carbs 6.4 g, fiber 2.2 g, calcium 200 mg, potassium 54 mg, iron 0.3 mg, beta carotene 3.7 mg, ascorbic acid 24 mg. The dry matter content varies from 6–18 % depending on plant age, soil moisture and fertilizing. The protein is rich in methionine.
Solanum means “quieting” because some members of the family induce sleep.Americanum means of America, nigrum means black, and ptychanthum is from two Greek words meaning “folded flower.” Villosum is hairy and retroflexummeans bent backwards. Like the S. nigrum, the S. retroflexum has sepals that turn back away from the berry. Burbankii for Luther Burbank and guineensemeans from Guinea.
S. americanum: Green berries speckled with white, fruit in a cluster radiating from one point. Shiny black.
S. ptycanthum: Similar to americanum but young leaves and shoots maroon under leaf, fruit has seeds and crumbs.
S. nigrum: Dull black berries, arranged along the stem.
TIME OF YEAR: Summer in northern climes, year round in warmer areas.
ENVIRONMENT: Will tolerated sand and dry conditions but prefers well cultivated and rich soil. If it makes a tomato happy it will make a black nightshade happy.
METHOD OF PREPARATION: Ripe berries raw or cooked, young leaves, stem tops boiled twice, 15 minutes each time.
Bruised leaves used externally to ease pain and reduce inflammation, also applies to burns and ulcers. Their juice has been used for ringworm, gout and earaches.
J Med Food. 2004 Fall;7(3):349-57. Antioxidative effects of glycoprotein isolated from Solanum nigrum L.Heo KS1, Lim KT.
Glycoprotein from Solanum nigrum L. (SNL glycoprotein) was isolated and tested for antioxidative effects on oxygen free radicals using a 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay. The free radical scavenging activities of the SNL glycoprotein are optimal in acidic pH and up to 60 degrees C. However, it has minimal activities in the presence of EDTA, although such activities are not dependent on M(2+) ions (Ca(2+), Mn(2+), and Mg(2+)) in the presence of EDTA. Interestingly, when SNL glycoprotein was treated with deactivation agents (pronase E and NaIO(4)), the DPPH radical scavenging activity was decreased compared with the SNL glycoprotein treatment alone. The antioxidative effects of SNL glycoprotein on superoxide anion and hydroxyl radical under optimal conditions revealed that SNL glycoprotein has remarkable scavenging effects on both radicals, but exhibited slightly higher scavenging effects on superoxide anion generated by the enzymatic hypoxanthine/xanthine oxidase system than on hydroxyl radicals generated by the Fenton reaction. However, SNL glycoprotein was more effective against hydroxyl radials in cell cultures (NIH/3T3). Consequently, 20 microg/mL SNL glycoprotein has a scavenging ability against superoxide anion corresponding to that of ascorbic acid. On the other hand, its hydroxyl radical scavenging activity corresponds to 0.1 microg/mL catalase. From these results, we suggest that SNL glycoprotein has potent antioxidative potential.
Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Nov;26(11):1618-9. Effect of dried fruits of Solanum nigrum LINN against CCl4-induced hepatic damage in rats.Raju K1, Anbuganapathi G, Gokulakrishnan V, Rajkapoor B, Jayakar B, Manian S.
Ethanol extract of Solanum nigrum LINN was investigated for its hepatoprotective activity against CCl4-induced hepatic damage in rats. The ethanol extract showed remarkable hepatoprotective activity. The activity was evaluated using biochemical parameters such as serum aspartate amino transferase (AST), alanine amino transferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and total bilirubin. The histopathological changes of liver sample in treated animals were compared with respect to control.