Nightshades – What in the World are They?

After I read “Eggplant Escapades: Nurses, Nightshades, and Nicotine” by Mireille Blacke via the Okra Magazine (link), I became intrigued by the topic of Nightshade Plants.  So now I’m researching them, and they’re quite interesting!  It’s amazing what you don’t know about such common foods that you eat often, other than they taste good.

Definition of Nightshade Foods:

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Nightshade food is: any of a genus (Solanum of the family Solanaceae, the nightshade family) of herbs, shrubs, and trees having alternate leaves, cymose flowers, and fruits that are berries and including some poisonous weeds, various ornamentals, and important crop plants (as the potato and eggplant)

The Solanaceae/Nightshade Family:

So what foods are nightshades?  Let’s take a look!

Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, goji and other berries, cherries, garden huckleberry, naranjillas, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, red peppers, cayenne, tobacco, and hot sauces containing hot peppers.

Now, these are just  a few examples, there are many more out there that I’m sure I didn’t cover.  That’s research for you to do!

The Chemical Make-Up of Nightshades:

Nightshade plants and foods have chemicals in them called Alkaloids.  Alkaloids are  any of numerous usually colorless, complex, and bitter organic bases (as morphine or caffeine) containing nitrogen and usually oxygen that occur especially in seed plants and are typically physiologically active.  These plants are pretty smart and amazing things.  When a plant is getting eaten it gives off more alkaloids to make themselves taste more bitter till the predator stops eating it.   If plants wouldn’t go through this process, who knows where we would be today, we could possibly not have peppers!  So what’s the harm you ask?  There’s many different kinds of alkaloids which range from being harmless to toxic.  Examples of some alkaloids are flavanoids, nicotine, morphine, and caffeine.  As we all know, or at least most of us I hope know, nicotine can be extremely dangerous for our bodies and in the long term usually detrimental.  This is where Nightshades get a bad rap.

Why One Should Avoid Nightshades:

Don’t worry about nicotine in your potatoes, you’d have to eat a ton (quite literally) in order to consume the amount of nicotine in one cigarette.   However, if you have arthritis, you should be very cautious of nightshades.  Nightshade foods can cause joint stiffness and pain thus worsening someone’s arthritis.  People can also have a sensitivity to nightshades which may cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc.

Now if you don’t suffer from arthritis or a sensitivity to nightshades, eat on!

Eat Some Nightshades,



Dawn, L. (n.d.). Nightshades – to eat or not to eat. Retrieved from

Kannall, E. (2013, December 18). List of nightshade vegetables & fruits. Retrieved from

What are nightshades and in which foods are they found?. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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