Herb: Potato


Latin name: Solanum tuberosum


Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)



Medicinal use of Potato:

Whilst mainly used as a staple food, potatoes do also have a number of medicinal virtues. A juice made from the tubers, when taken in moderation, can be helpful in the treatment of peptic ulcers, bringing relief from pain and acidity. Excessive doses of potato juice can be toxic - do not drink the juice of more than one large potato per day. A poultice has been made from boiling potatoes in water. This is applied as hot as can be borne to rheumatic joints, swellings, skin rashes, haemorrhoids etc. Peeled but uncooked potatoes have been pounded in a mortar and then applied cold as a soothing plaster to burns and scalds. Potato skins are used in India to treat swollen gums and to heal burns. The tubers contain very small quantities of atropine alkaloids. One property of these alkaloids is the reduction of digestive secretions, including acids produced in the stomach. The root and leaf diffusates of growing potato plants possess cardiotonic activity. Dried ethanol extracts of above-ground parts of the plant show marked hypotensive and myotropic action and a spasmolytic and soothing effect on intestinal musculature. Ethanol extracts of the leaves have antifungal properties, active against Phytophthora infestans. The leaves, seeds, and tuber extracts show antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. The leaves are antispasmodic.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
July to
September

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of Potato:

Root - raw or cooked. Potatoes are a very versatile food that can be used in a wide variety of ways. Having a mild flavour, and readily accepting the flavour of other foods, they can be eaten on a regular basis without becoming boring. Whilst occasionally eaten raw, they are most commonly cooked and can boiled, baked, fried, added to soups, stews etc. The cooked potato can also be dried and made into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc, or be added to cereal flours when making bread, biscuits etc. The potato is a very rich source of starch, but does not contain high quantities of other nutrients. When exposed to light, the skin turns green and contains the toxin solanine. Whilst eating a small quantity of green potato is unlikely to cause harm, it is probably wisest to remove any green part of the tuber before eating it. The fresh petals of white-flowered varieties contain 0.2% rutin.

Other uses of the herb:

The tubers are a source of starch that is used in sizing cotton and to make industrial alcohol etc. It also has many other uses in industry. Ripe potato juice is an excellent cleaner of silks, cottons and woollens. The water in which potatoes have been boiled can be used to clean silver and to restore a shine to furniture. Emollient and cleansing face masks are made from potatoes, these are used to treat hard, greasy and wrinkled skins. The potato is a good source of biomass. When boiled with weak sulphuric acid, potato starch is changed into glucose and this can then be fermented into alcohol.

Propagation of Potato:

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions after the last expected frosts. If grown on fast it is possible to get a reasonable crop in the first year though the normal way of growing potatoes is from tubers. Seed from named varieties will not breed true to type but will usually give a good crop. Division of tubers. Harvest in the autumn, store in a cool frost free place overwinter. Chit the potatoes to encourage the growth of sprouts in the new year and plant out in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Solanum tuberosum:

All green parts of the plant, including the green parts of tubers, are poisonous, containing an alkaloid called 'solanine'.. These solanines are also produced in potato shoots when they sprout, even if the potato is in the dark and the shoots are not green.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.