Herb: Black Nightshade


Latin name: Solanum nigrum


Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)



Medicinal use of Black Nightshade:

The whole plant is antiperiodic, antiphlogistic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, narcotic, purgative and sedative. 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. 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.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Annual


Height:
60 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
July to
September

Habitat of the herb:

Uncultivated and waste land. It is a common garden weed.

Edible parts of Black Nightshade:

Fruit - cooked. Used in preserves, jams and pies. A pleasant musky taste. Somewhat like a tomato, but much less pleasant, it improves slightly after a frost. Only the fully ripe fruits should be used, the unripe fruits contain the toxin solanine. 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. This plant is cultivated as a leaf crop in some areas, but see the notes at the top of the page regarding possible toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

This species has been found to be effective in removing PCB's from the soil and detoxifying them. The plant is more effective in doing this if it is infected with the bacterial parasite Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

Propagation of Black Nightshade:

Seed - sow spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in a greenhouse during the spring if required. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant out in late spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Uncultivated and waste land. It is a common garden weed.

Known hazards of Solanum nigrum:

There is a lot of disagreement over whether or not the leaves or fruit of this plant are poisonous. Views vary from relatively poisonous to perfectly safe to eat. The plant is cultivated as a food crop, both for its fruit and its leaves, in some parts of the world and it is probably true to say that toxicity can vary considerably according to where the plant is grown and the cultivar that is being grown. The unripe fruit contains the highest concentration of toxins.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.