Solanum nigrum is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is a common herb found in wooded areas and has many health benefits. The plant bears white flowers. The fruits are green when raw and turn purple-black when they ripen. It is believed to have antipyretic, diuretic, anticancer, and hepatoprotective effects. Research shows that the leaves were richer in polyphenols than stem and fruit. Solanum nigrum leaves contained the highest concentration of gentisic acid, luteolin, apigenin, kaempferol, and m-coumaric acid. However, the anthocyanidin existed only in the purple fruits.
Botanical name – Solanum nigrum
Common name – Black nightshade; wonder berry
Hindi – Makoi
Tamil – Manathakkali
Is Solanum nigrum edible?
Solanum nigrum is used as both food and medicine. It has a history of medicinal usage. In traditional Indian medicines, infusions of the leaves are used to treat dysentery, stomach complaints, fever, and tuberculosis. The juice of the plant is applied ulcers and other skin diseases. The fruits are used as a tonic, laxative, appetite stimulant, and for treating asthma. The juice from its roots is used against asthma and whooping cough. The plant is widely used in oriental medicine where it is considered to be antitumorigenic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, hepatoprotective, diuretic, and antipyretic
In oriental medicine, it is considered to be an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and antipyretic. The Chinese believe that it is an anti-cancer agent and is good for cancers of the digestive system.
It was a traditional European medicine for infirmities that needed cooling. It was considered good for cooling hot inflammation, ringworm, ulcers, testicular swelling, gout, and ear pain. It was also used for treating convulsions.
The Arabs used the bruised fresh leaves to erase the pain and reduce inflammation. They also applied the poultice of the leaves to burns and considered it good for ulcers.
The unripe berries are not eaten raw, as they contain solanine, and could be toxic. The toxicity is quite variable in different varieties and in different parts of the world. In the South of India, the unripe berries are soaked in curd and dried in the sun to make a very tasty condiment. How to preserve the berries
1. A powerful antioxidant
S. nigrum extract contains high amount of polyphenols which are responsible for its antioxidant properties. These antioxidants help to improve immunity and fight free radicals that lead to oxidative stress. The antioxidant property of this plant is believed to be due to the presence of β-carotene, polyphenolic compounds, and vitamin C. Studies have highlighted the significant antioxidant potential of S. nigrum extracts, and how ir can be used as a nutritional supplement for combating oxidative stress induced damage.
2. Anti-cancer benefits
Solanum nigrum or Manathakkali fights against cancer-causing cells. Studies have found that the aqueous extract of Solanum nigrum is a crucial ingredient in some traditional Chinese medicine formulas for treating various types of cancer patients and exhibits antitumor effects. Manathakkali can be consumed for breast cancer and mouth cancer, and helps to treat inflammation and pain. In one study, the cytotoxicity of the leaf, stem, or fruit extract was evaluated against cancer cell lines and normal cells. The results showed that breast cancer cells were more sensitive to the extract.
3. Anti-inflammatory properties
Solanum nigrum has anti-inflammatory properties that help to manage joint pains. Results from studies suggest that “the steroidal saponins from berries of S. nigrum demonstrates pronounced anti-inflammatory activity and might be explored as a healthy benefit agent.” The presence of alkaloids and the compound Solanin A in Solanum nigrum is highly helpful in reducing inflammation. Regular consumption of this herb can result in significant improvement in pain and inflammation.
The plant can either be consumed in the form of a soup, as part of a meal or applied as a paste on affected areas.
4. Solanum nigrum benefits for stomach and Mouth ulcers
Another important health benefit of S nigrum is that it helps to cure ulcers quite effectively. You can have this as a soup made with the leaves of the herb and coconut milk. Coconut milk is another food that helps with ulcers as it is soothing and has anti-microbial properties. Watch the video below on how to make the soup. It is simple to make and delicious.
You can also just chew the raw leaves to quickly heal the mouth ulcers. Solanum nigrum extract when studied, was found to have antiulcer property. The herb helps to block acid secretion and decrease of gastrin secretion. It thus helps to heal ulcers. You can also gargle with the juice of the leaves of Solanum nigrum to heal mouth ulcers.
5. Solanum nigrum benefits for the liver
Animal studies found that Solanum nigrum extracts reduced the incidence of liver lesions in rats, thus protecting the liver against oxidative damage. In another study, the ethanol extract of the fruits of S. nigrum was found to be hepatoprotective in animal models. The effects of Solanum nigrum extract was also evaluated on mice with induced liver fibrosis. The study confirmed that Solanum nigrum extract reduced the degree of fibrosis.
Other benefits and home remedies with Solanum nigrum leaves
- It is a diuretic and hence helps in the discharge of urine. A decoction made from the leaves and stem of the plant helps this purpose.
- The leaves of the Solanum nigrum is a natural home remedy to treat digestive problems. The juice of the leaves is good for flatulence, peptic ulcers and dysentry. An infusion of the plant is good for abdominal upsets.
- The leaves and fruits are said to cure fever. A decoction made from fresh or dried leaves helps to reduce fever.
- A paste made from the plant can be applied on burns to get relief.
- The paste of the leaves can also be applied as a poultice over rheumatic joints and for eruptive skin disorders.
- The green berries can be mashed and massaged locally to treat ringworms.
- The bruised leaves used externally are said to ease pain and reduce inflammation.
- A quarter cup of the juice of the leaf taken thrice a day for the duration of the period, relieves painful periods. This should be continued for a couple of cycles
- A decoction of the ripe berries and flowers of the Solanum nigrum is good for cough and cold.
How to make Manathakkali Powder
In order to make Manathakkali leaf powder,
- Harvest the leaves and wash them well.
- Dry the leaves in the shade till they become crisp.
- Grind the dried leaves in a mixer-grinder.
- Sieve it and grind again till you get a fine powder.
- Store it in a glass jar.
Mix one tsp of Manathakkali powder in a cup of hot water and drink on an empty stomach, in the morning.
Manathakkali powder uses
Manathakkali leaf powder is a useful and much sought after remedy for treating stomach and mouth ulcers.
It improves eyesight, reduces urinary infections and helps to cure constipation.
Manathakkali powder is abundant in niacin, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, and iron and vitamin C.
It relieves bad breath and relives throat pain.
Manathakkali is also known for its cooling effects on the body.
Preserving the berries
The raw berries can be treated and preserved to be used when wanted. The following recipe is considered to be effective for acidity and gastric complaints.
- Pluck the raw berries.
- Take some curd (yogurt) and add some salt to it.
- Drop the berries in the curd mixture. Let it soak for a day.
- Take the berries out of the curd and dry in the sun the next day.
- At the end of the day, put it back in the curd mixture and mix.
- Continue doing this till all the curd is absorbed and the berries are completely dry.
These dry berries stay for long and can be used in recipes. To overcome acidity, fry these berries in clarified butter and mix in cooked rice and consume.
Adverse and side Effects
The unripe fruit of Solanum nigrum contains solanine, and hence should not be eaten raw. At lower doses, they can cause nausea, vomiting, and other side effects. At higher doses, they can cause severe poisoning, which can lead to death. This is only regarding the unripe fruit.
The actual concentration of solanine varies according to the stage of plant development, as well as genetic, seasonal, and environmental factors.