The Solananae (Nightshade) family: A Friend and a Foe


Ricardo Mazcal

Nightshades are a botanical group of the Solananae family of the Dicotiledoneas which have a 98 types, and some 2700 species.

Nightshade vegetables are foods and spices that contain chemical compounds called alkaloids. These vegetables (which are actually fruits) are highly nutritious and diet staples in many countries.

Common edible nightshades include: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplant, Bell peppers, Jalapeño peppers, Chipotle peppers. Spices from peppers, such as cayenne and paprika.

It is hard to imagine a world without tomato sauces that enrich the dishes of many cultures. Tomatoes properly cooked have many health benefits. Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamins.

Peppers, in addition to their large variety types and flavor, contain capsaicin which is an anti-fungal agent

Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. They also contain potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Who can say no to a baked potato smother with butter and sea salt?

Nightshade vegetables contain small amounts of alkaloids. Alkaloids can be dangerous in large doses. In fact, there are many other plants in the nightshade family such as the Brugmansia and Datura species that are ornamental plants that are poisonous to humans.

Even though Nightshade vegetables contain low levels of alkaloids, edible nightshades might, to some people, be guilty by association. But some people also seem to think nightshades can encourage inflammation – the root of many health problems. There are no studies demonstrating this. Some diet plans exclude nightshade vegetables, claiming that people report feeling better when they don’t eat them. That doesn’t mean everyone should be cutting them out of their diet.

Food sensitivity is person-specific and can often be a symptom of another imbalance rather than a problem with Nightshade vegetables. If there is a value in reducing nightshades, it would most likely be for those with inflammatory or autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and psoriasis.

Some diet plans exclude nightshade vegetables because of Leptin, a mild toxic compound linked to storing fat, found in the skin of Nightshade vegetables. It is recommended to eliminate the skin and seeds of Nightshade vegetables.

If you think you have a sensitivity to nightshade vegetables, it is recommended cutting them out for a few weeks while keeping a close eye on symptoms to test for tolerance.

If avoiding nightshade vegetables improves symptoms, then determine the root cause of inflammation and likely improve tolerance to nightshade foods over time.

If you prefer to eliminate them, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting important vitamins and antioxidants from other sources.

There are ornamental Solananae family such as Brugmansia, a genus of seven species of flowering plants in the family Solanaceae. They are woody trees or shrubs, with pendulous flowers, and have no spines on their fruit. Their large, fragrant flowers give them their common name of angel’s trumpets, a name sometimes used for the closely related genus Datura. Datura differ from Brugmansia in that they are herbaceous perennials, with erect or nodding, rather than pendulous, flowers and spiny fruit.

Datura in Spanish is Toloache and in Latin America the toxic effects are used by women to control their man. It is said that when a man is totally in love with a woman, other women say that that state of love is due to the ingestion of a love potion (a tea or water containing Toloache=Datura) provided to her man to attract and retain his love. In Latin American countries about 60 percent of woman have admitted using the power of the Toloache love potion. The problem is that high doses of Toloache leads to hallucinations, tachacardia, neurologic problems and even death.

Brugmansia and Datura species are among the most toxic of ornamental plants, containing tropane alkaloids of the type responsible for the toxicity of the infamous deadly nightshade.

For people, ornamental nightshades are a foe, liquids coming from ornamental nightshade flowering trees are toxic to people and should be avoided.

There’s no need to avoid nightshade vegetables, these foods are extremely good for you and offer many health benefits.

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