Medicinal plants

Bittersweet Nightshade – Use & Treatment for Health

Bittersweet nightshade

The bittersweet nightshade , also known as Solanum dulcamara , belongs to the nightshade family and is poisonous due to its alkaloid content. Nevertheless, parts of the bittersweet nightshade are used medicinally to treat chronic eczema.

Occurrence & Cultivation of Bittersweet Nightshade

Solanum dulcamara is a poisonous subshrub found throughout most of Europe, North America and Asia. The bittersweet nightshade is also popular as a garden ornamental plant. The plant prefers moist locations, for example on banks, by the sea or in lowland forests. The bittersweet nightshade is a climbing plant that can spread up to ten meters. The plant reaches a maximum height of one meter.

The leaves are heart- to egg-shaped, partly pinnate, but always arranged alternately. The formation of terminal flowers is characteristic. The blue-violet and sometimes even yellow, showy flowers appear from June. From August onwards, spherical, sometimes elliptical berries develop from the flowers, which are up to approx. 1.1 centimeters long and 1.5 centimeters wide. When the berries are ripe, they are deep to scarlet in color.

All parts of the bittersweet nightshade plant contain toxic alkaloids, especially saponins. Steroidal alkaloids are plant nitrogenous steroids found primarily in plants of the nightshade family of plants. Saponins are also referred to as soap substances because they often foam like soap when combined with water.

Effect & Application

The dried stems of the plant are almost exclusively used medicinally. These are also called Solani dulcamarae stipites or bittersweet stalks. The stalks are picked in spring or autumn from 2 to 3 year old plants. As a rule, the stalks are then processed into medicinal products, and selling the dried stalks is rather unusual. A glycerol extract is often made from the stalks.

There are numerous preparations on the market containing an extract of bittersweet nightshade. However, most preparations are not mono-preparations, but contain other herbal active ingredients in addition to the bittersweet nightshade. Bittersweet nightshade stems contain tannins, alkaloids and saponins. These ingredients have an astringent, i.e. astringent, effect on the skin and are anti-inflammatory.

The saponins in particular also have an expectorant effect. Folk medicine also assigns the plant an antiallergic , calming, blood-purifying, antipyretic , narcotic and analgesic effect . According to these effective areas, the bittersweet sticks and preparations with bittersweet sticks are mainly used for the therapy of chronic skin diseases and inflammations . They are also used in the treatment of allergies.

A traditional area of ​​application for the plant is also colds . A blood-cleansing tea can be made from a teaspoon of bittersweet sticks poured over 250ml of boiling water, but internal use is only recommended under medical supervision and with ready-made remedies that contain a specific and controlled amount of active ingredient. However, envelopes can also be made from the bittersweet stick tea. A cloth is soaked in the tea and placed on the affected areas.

These envelopes are said to be helpful for skin rashes , rheumatism and cellulite . The tea can also be used for ablutions. Bittersweet nightshade is also used in homeopathy . For the homeopathic remedies, however, it is not the stems that are picked, but the young shoots and leaves just before they bloom. In homeopathy, Dulcamara is typically used for diseases that are a result of wet and cold weather or a change in the weather.

Indications for Dulcamara in different potencies are colds, pneumonia , pain in the throat and pharynx, headache and body aches , bronchitis , asthma , hay fever , diarrhea and skin problems. Dulcamara can also be the drug of choice for bladder infections , eye infections or earaches .

Importance for health, treatment & prevention

Even the Romans used the bittersweet nightshade for healing purposes. In the Middle Ages, the plant was mainly used against skin diseases and gout . The famous herbalist Kneipp used the bittersweet nightshade for detoxification. Today the plant is used less often than it was then, which is certainly due to its poisonous content. Due to its toxicity, the plant itself should not be collected. In too high a concentration, the alkaloids cause the red blood cells to dissolve. The poisoning is manifested by symptoms such as scratching in the mouth and throat , nausea , vomiting , shortness of breath , convulsions and drowsiness.

There is a serious risk of poisoning after ingesting five to ten berries, but milder symptoms of poisoning can also be caused by eating the leaves and stems or tea infusions of the leaves and stems. Commission E, a commission of experts belonging to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices in Germany, has positively monographed the bittersweet stalks.

This means that there is scientific evidence that bittersweet stalks have a positive effect on certain diseases, more specifically chronic eczema. The experts from Commission E recommend a maximum daily dose of 1-3g of dried drug. Infusions or decoctions should be carried out with 1-2g of the drug in approx. 250ml of water. The Commission also rated compresses and washes containing bittersweet nightshade extracts as helpful.

It has been scientifically proven that the bittersweet stems have an astringent, antimicrobial and mucous membrane irritant (and thus expectorant) effect. In addition, the contained solasodin has an anti-inflammatory effect. Despite the toxicity of the plant, therapy with the bittersweet nightshade should be considered, especially for skin diseases, provided certain precautions are observed.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.