The beloved potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum and chilli peppers belong to the nightshade family whose primary toxin is solanine, an alkaloid which can been known to produce diarrhea, heart failure, headache, and vomiting. Extreme reactions are rare but do occur in instances in which an allergic or otherwise very sensitive individual overindulges. Those who are sensitive may notice an expanded and light feeling several hours after eating the nightshades; they may also find it more difficult to focus mentally. The expansive effect can be beneficial for those who become tense from work, stress, or activity which takes great concentration, provided one has no other reaction to these plants. The mildest effect comes from the potato, especially the red potato.
Considered staples of a plant-based diet, Nightsade consuption should be balanced, with green leafy vegetables taking everyday preference. Let's look at some of the Nightshade family one by one!
Called aubergine in Europe, eggplant is native to India (the only edible nightshade not to originate from the Americas). The large type commonly available in the west is harder to digest. A laxative, diuretic and upsets Kapha but alleviates Pitta and Vata.
The smaller fruited Indian type is bitter, pungent, light for digestion, strengthens agni and increases Pitta. Actually a fruit, eggplant combines with other foods like a non-starch vegetable.
Healing properties: reduces swelling; clears stagnant blood by dissolving congealed blood and accumulations such as tumors and specifically treats congealed blood affecting the uterus. Eggplant also has hemostatic action (reduces bleeding). Used for bleeding hemorrhoids, blood in the urine, and bleeding in general.
Eggplant is a rich source of bioflavonoids which renew arteries and prevent strokes and other hemorrhages. It can be used to treat dysentery, diarrhea accompanied by heat signs such as yellow tongue coating, mouth ulcers (apply charred eggplant powder - roast until charred or use eggplant tooth powder), snake and scorpion bites (apply a pack of raw eggplant) and frostbite (use a compress of room-temperature eggplant tea).
Influences the liver and uterus and is particularly helpful for resolving repressed emotions and their harmful effect on these organs.
Caution: Eggplant should be eaten sparingly by pregnant women. In Japan, women are advised not to eat eggplant during pregnancy because it can cause miscarriage. It is sometimes claimed to be damaging to the kidneys in Chinese medicine.
Considered one of the most completely nourishing foods if eaten with its skin, as an experiment to test the nutritional value of potatoes, two Danish food scientists lived healthily for three years during World War II on whole potatoes only.
Because it increases the yin aspect of the body, it improves one's receptive, nurturing, and compassionate nature. Yin also includes the body's structure, and so potatoes can be used to help build and maintain body tissues. In addition to the expansive effect of the nightshades noted above, the potato's yin, earthly nature is frequently craved by those with "jet lag" and other stresses of the high-tech world.
Good for Kapha, neutral for Pitta and imbalancing for Vata.
Healing properties: mildly diuretic, tonifies the spleen and pancreas, harmonizes the stomach, lubricates the intestines.
Potato fortifies the yin aspect of the kidney and contains an abundance of carbohydrates that are already in the form of sugars. This sweet flavor can favourably influence the spleen and pancreas, particularly in those individuals who do not chew other carbohydrates well enough to obtain satisfying amount of sugars.
Potato neutralizes body acids, which help relieve arthritis and rheumatism; and its rich potassium content is good for those who have used too much salt and high-sodium food, including meat. The potato reduces all inflammations. Its juice can be applied externally to heal burns, and can be drunk to lower blood pressure and treat stomach and dudenal ulcers. The fresh juice is considered to have antibiotic properties. It also helps establish beneficial intestinal flora and is a rich source of vitamin C, enzymes, and minerals.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth-century America, a poultice of grated raw potato was a common remedy for drawing out external abscesses, carbuncles, and eczema and for relieving swelling and soreness of the eyes. Today this kind of poultice still finds use as a Bolivian folk remedy for headaches.
Caution: Green potatoes and sprouts that grow on potatoes are toxic - be sure to remove the eye of the sprout imbedded in the potato. The renowned Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner observed that eating too many potatoes can cause laziness. This is a reasonable claim since an excess of potatoes will create an excess of the yin, receptive principle in the body (receptivity taken to the extreme can cause laziness).
A native of the South American Andes, tomatoes were brought into cultivation in Mexico and found their way to Europe in the early 1500s. A rich source of vitamins A and C, tomatoes are most aggravating to Pitta and least for Kapha, but having a sour Vipaka are not desirable for Kapha in the long run either. Vatas generally find the peel and seeds most aggravating, and so can usually handle them as a paste, sauce or juice in small amounts.
Healing properties: builds the yin fluids and relieves dryness and thirst, tonifies the stomach and cleanses the liver; purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general; encourages digestion and so is used in cases of diminished appetite, indigestion, food retention, anorexia, and constipation.
Tomato relieves liver heat and accompanying symptoms such as high blood pressure, red eyes, and headache. To treat areas of stagnant blood in the body, tomato can be used as a
food and as an external pack of the raw, finely sliced fruit on the stagnant site. Vine-ripened tomatoes are best as green-picked tomatoes that are later ripened are very acid-forming and can weaken the kidney-adrenal function.
Caution: Tomato upsets calcium metabolism and should be avoided in cases of arthritis. Large amounts of tomatoes are weakening for everyone