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Nightshades and Your Health

Nightshades are foods that contain a substance called solanine. Solanine creates problems in some people. When someone reacts to solanine, they commonly get pain and inflammation.

Not every person has a bad response to solanine. However, if you have chronic joint pain, body aches, stomach problems, and headaches, it is worth testing. Do this by stopping foods with it for a while. If you get better, you will know this was the problem. You may need to avoid these for at least a month to tell.

You might also notice if you have worse symptoms after any meal. If so, check whether or not the meal might have included nightshades. These exist in many foods, so you’ll need to become a good label reader to be sure if you’re getting them or not.

Foods in the nightshade family include:

  • Tomatoes (all varieties including Tomatillos) – salsa, ketchup, pasta sauce, etc.
  • Potatoes (all varieties except sweet potatoes and yams) – French fries, baked potatoes, hash browns, etc. Also be alert for potato starch used in seasonings and to thicken sauces.
  • Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento)  – salsa, stuffed peppers, spicy chili, etc.
  • Paprika.
  • Eggplant.

There are other foods with solanine that are not nightshades. These may cause the problem as well:

  • Blueberries & Huckleberries [Note: this information is suspect. See the comments below about blueberries. On further research I can find no actual research showing that blueberries have any significant amount of solanine. – Dr. Bruce]
  • Okra
  • Artichokes

Even very small amounts of these can cause problems with a sensitive person, so the best test requires stopping even traces of these in your diet for a period of time.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • KarenJuly 3, 2011, 4:43 pm

    I knew about this problem with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant, but I didn’t realize paprika, blueberries, huckleberries, okra and artichokes were also culprits. Very interesting. Thank you.

  • Dr. BruceJuly 3, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Hi Karen,

    Funny how these things can sneak into our diet, isn’t it?

    Dr. Bruce

  • Lauren @ MRSJuly 5, 2011, 6:08 pm

    Why are they called nightshades thought? Does it pertain to the time of day that it normally reacts or just because it sneaks up on you?

  • BekahMay 4, 2012, 6:48 pm

    To answer your question Lauren, the term nightshade comes from the European black nightshade (or “Solanum nigrum”) berries. In which Solanine was first discovered in the early 1800s. Subsequently most plants containing high amounts of Solanine were eventually coined as nightshades (presumably).

  • JodyFebruary 18, 2013, 5:54 pm

    I was unsatisfied with the answer to “why is it called nightshade,” so I did a little research. I like the 4th answer best, although answer 3 makes the most sense.

    These are called nightshade because they grow well under night shade (from Food Enquirer.com)

    It is thought the name originated among the Romans who ground up a so-called deadly black nightshade and put it in an alcoholic drink intended for an enemy. The shade came down for a long night: they died. (from Noarthritis.com)

    Its derivation is from Old English – nihtscada (meaning: unrecorded night) perhaps because of its narcotic/poisoning effects. (from Wiki.answers.com)

    Herbs, like Nightshade, gathered for ‘black magic’ had to be gathered during certain phases of the moon, and they had to be gathered from a spot that the sun had not touched, since witches’ work cannot stand the light of day. (from dutchie.org)

  • Dr. BruceFebruary 18, 2013, 6:26 pm

    Hi Jody,

    Thanks for the great addition to this post!

    Dr. Bruce

  • mikeMarch 29, 2013, 2:29 pm

    What’s your source for Blueberries? While I see this repeated over and over I have yet to come across a single VALID CREDIBLE source of information that:

    1. Confirms Solanine is in the Edible Part of the Blueberry plant, let alone any other part

    2. Any study which references the amount of Solanine in a Blueberry and the metabolic effect of Solanine from Blueberries.

    Lots of people can repeat the same thing over and over… but again is there any Credible Scientific Literature about Solanine in Blueberries you can cite so I can research it further?

    Thanks

  • Dr. BruceMarch 30, 2013, 9:43 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your questions.

    After zeroing in on this particular details from the article, I also cannot find any research-based reference for the presence of solanine in blueberries. I recommend you ignore this part of the article. The rest stands as is.

    Thanks again,

    Dr. Bruce

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