What’s So Dangerous About NightShades?
Deadly nightshade! Dramatic name and well served. It is a very poisonous plant growing in your backyard (at least in mine in Milwaukee). You should know what the berries look like and rid your yard of them before your pets or children chomp on them. Even Shakespeare was well versed about deadly nightshade, as it made Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, Scene 5. The root and vines are equally poisonous, if not more so. Hence, it shouldn’t be a big surprise if other members of the nightshade family are problematic for humans. Well, they are. If you put potato, tomato or eggplant leaves in your salad, you can then arrange for a timely visit to an ER where you will be treated for all sorts of hallucinations if not more ominous symptoms. No kidding. The alkaloids of nightshades kicked off the field of chemistry and anesthesiology, coming out of the traditional healers otherwise known as witches. That’s why your mother told you never to eat any potato that was green. Don’t eat the shoot either. In fact, cut out the eyes of the potato. Whew, pretty dramatic stuff, this nightshade family!
Is the whole nightshade family so awful? Can we not eat tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, chilis? Please, please make an exception for chilis.
Is there any credible science about the dangers of nightshades? It’s not just the alkaloids that are problematic. They contain unique lectins that set off the immune system and your response to it. What are lectins? They are the proteins the mimic your own proteins in a fashion to poison you and keep you away from eating plants. All animals have evolved in ecosystems in which they became tolerant to the local lectins and indeed consumed with impunity. Humans evolved in Africa and came out of Africa just 90,000 years ago. The nightshades are all New World plants. We’ve hardly had evolutionary time to adapt to their toxins.
How important is it for you to be careful about eating them? That’s the rub. Here we enter into the world of functional medicine and away from the world of evidence-based research. We have many, many practitioners who will tell you they have seen amazing things happen when their clients avoid nightshades. Particularly in the field of autoimmune disease, there is lots of anecdotal evidence that the field of nightshade chemistry is one filled with danger. Then why haven’t we seen objective science?
Answer. We haven’t gotten there yet. There are thousands of different lectins and the day has not yet come that modern medicine would endorse research into that field. It’s still too arcane and appears to work only in small subsets of folks. For example, autoimmune diseases. There appears to be some credible evidence from anecdotal reports that anyone with any sort of autoimmune illness should make their best effort to be off nightshades.
We see that same effect with a more prominent lectin source, wheat. By adding 14 plus 14 new chromosomes from two distinct separate grasses to wheat, we tripled the chromosomes and lectins in wheat resulting in many folks being wheat intolerant. Modern medicine looks at the specific immune disease called celiac disease, present in only 1 of 138 people, and dismisses it outright. You don’t have to look far to find someone who feels much better when they avoid wheat.
What’s a conscientious health seeking person to do about nightshades? Oh heck, have a tomato. Enjoy some eggplant. As long as you don’t have any autoimmune disease. But if you come to me with osteoporosis, or arthritis or coronary artery disease…..don’t say you weren’t warned. Those disease get better when you avoid them. And who doesn’t have them?
www.What will work for me. I’m off potatoes, soy and wheat. But I sure like tomatoes, eggplant and chilis. I weed my fence line of deadly nightshade. I don’t think I have any autoimmune illness. Yet. I’m waiting for more research. It’s pretty thin right now. But I’ve been frankly stunned in my functional medicine practice by the people with autoimmune diseases who have gotten better by avoiding them. Some in just a month. I’ve got a few dedicated folks trying out a lectin free diet with severe coronary artery disease. I’m hopeful.
- Nightshade plants contain some pretty serious poisons? T or F Answer: Even Juliet will tell you yes.
- You can safely eat a green potato. T or F Answer: Please, please, please don’t try.
- There is some pretty good proof that lectins are harmful? T or F Answer: all depends on how you define proof. If you are waiting for a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, you don’t have any proof. If you talk to your neighbor who avoids wheat, just try telling them there is no proof. You will lose a friend and credibility.
- Humans are tolerant to what plant-based foods? Answer: Quite a few. Many nuts (not including cashews and peanuts), almost all leafy greens, , olives, avacados……ready Gundry’s book: The Plant Paradox
- I free great when I eat a huge green salad with green peppers and tomatoes. Is that so bad? I like the lycopine in the tomatoes for my health. Answer: Come back when you have your first bone density showing osteoporosis. We’ll talk. But until then, I’ll hide behind the concept of conjecture.