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The Nightshades

The Nightshades

December 10, 2015
Posted in: Nature | Reading Time: 2 minutes


Solanum nigrum, garden huckleberry -  290/365

 I often find nightshades (Solanaceae) all over my neighborhood in Santa Cruz mountains. Sometimes they are growing wild, like this garden huckleberry above. Other times I see them intentionally planted as hedges such as the flowering potato vine below.

Nightshades include white potatoes (not sweet), paprika, tomatoes, all peppers and chillies, goji berries, eggplant and tobacco. Prior to the 1800s, they were considered inedible mainly due to the most deadly of them all, bella donna atropa, which is fatal if ingested.  Bella donna atropa is eerily similar to garden huckleberry above, but the belladonna berries aren't clustered like the huckleberry. Instead, the belladonna atropa berries are grown individually.


Solanum tuberosum, Potato flower  - 291/365

Today, edible nightshades get a lot of attention for people with autoimmune diseases mainly because they contain alkaloids, such as solanine, which is a chemical compound to repel pests and molds that would kill the plant. While belladonna atropa carries a high concentration of these alkaloids which can be fatal to a human, edible nightshades only carry a small amount and are only fatal to the pests that ies to eat it.  In a healthy person, the small amounts of these toxins in edible nightshades will not harm the GI. Since alkaloids are designed to be kill things, they can affect people with GI or autoimmune issues, killing the cells lining the GI tract and leading to leaky gut.

One way to reduce the alkaloids in nightshade fruits is to properly prepare them. Peel all potatoes since the highest concentration is of alkaloids are found in the skin. Avoid green tomatoes or sprouting potatoes as unripe nightshades are higher in alkaloids. Cooking nightshades also reduces alkaloid levels.

Interestingly enough, Capsaicin, the alkaloid found in hot peppers (such as chilies), actually causes the reverse effect, triggering such a strong immune response that it results in a strong anti-inflammatory benefit. So enjoy your hot peppers.

Because of my Lyme disease illness, I have a lot of GI issues and an autoimmune disease, Celiac disease that was "turned on" at some time due to the Lyme infection. Still, I cannot do without eggplant and though I'm not crazy about most raw tomatoes, I couldn't live without my various Italian cooked tomato sauces. I cook all my nightshades to avoid making my GI and immune system worse than it already is. Ya gotta live, Internet!

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2 comments on “The Nightshades”

  1. Really interesting! Glad I never liked the potato peel anyway hehe. I wish I liked hot peppers though lol. I've heard of the benefits of those, but... they are just too hot lol.

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