Turkey berry or Solanum torvum fruits are used in fresh and dried form for medicinal purposes. The plant is a tall bush with leaves that look like eggplant leaves. The flowers are white in colour. The fruits are green when fresh and turn yellow when ripe. The essential nutrients in turkey berry are vitamin A, Iron, Calcium, and Fibre. Also called prickly nightshade, it belongs to the eggplant family.
It is called Sundakkai in Tamil, in the south of India. As it is bitter in taste, yogurt, tamarind, salt, or jaggery is used in cooking to reduce the bitterness. The berries are sun-dried and used to make various dishes. These sun-dried berries have a very long shelf life.
Turkey berry is used both in Ayurveda and Siddha medicines. In her book ‘Healing with Herbs’, the author Uma Swaminathan says that in Ayurveda, Turkey berry is used to “cure liver and kidney disorders, nerve conditions and night blindness. It is also used to relieve stomach ailments, as a diuretic, for curing stomach ulcers and to rid intestinal worms.” Pharmacological studies have demonstrated the ability of this plant to exhibit Anti-oxidant activity, cardiovascular, immunomodulatory, and nephroprotective activity thus supporting its traditional uses.
Botanical Name – Solanum torvum
Sanskrit – Brihati
Tamil – Sundakkai
Common name – Turkey berry
Hindi: Bhurat, Bhankatiya
Health benefits of Solanum torvum
Solanum torvum is also good for the bones and teeth. Turkey berries have antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties. They are said to stop excessive cell growth and studies show that turkey berry extracts could protect against lung cancer. The parts of the plant used for medicinal purposes are fresh or dried fruit, leaves, and root. The fruit has sedative, diuretic and digestive properties. The leaves have antimicrobial properties, and hence can be applied to cuts and wounds.
Turkey Berry Health Benefits for Diabetes
Turkey berry has been traditionally used to cure diabetes. Modern-day animal studies suggest that Solanum torvum fruit containing phenolic compounds has great potential as a natural source of antidiabetic and antioxidant drugs. But another study on the effect of dry solanum torvum powder supplementation on lipid profile, glycated proteins, and amino acids in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients, showed that after one month of supplementation, no significant changes were observed with respect to glucose, lipid profile, glycated proteins, total amino acids and uronic acid levels in these subjects.
Turkey Berry Health Benefits for H pylori Infection
Solanum torvum is one of the valued folk medicines for the treatment of abscesses, jigger wounds, and skin infections. In a study on extracts of two plants, Solanum erianthum, and Solanum torvum, which were studied for their anti-H. pylori activity, the solanum torvum extracts were able to inhibit the growth of H. pylori. This is the first study to show that the chloroform extract of Solanum torvum strongly inhibits H. pylori growth and also interrupts the association of bacteria to host cells. H. pylori-induced apoptosis was also efficiently suppressed by the extract.
Turkey Berry Health Benefits For Hypertension
Solanum torvum is used in Cameroon ethnomedicine for the treatment of hypertension. A study aimed at determining the effect of ethanolic extract of Solanum torvum on systolic blood pressure in fructose-induced hypertension concluded that the ethanolic extract of Solanum torvum could “prevent the development of high blood pressure which is induced by a diet rich in fructose, by reversing the metabolic alterations induced by fructose.”
Turkey Berry Health Benefits for Kidney Disease
Studies show that Turkey Berries can help prevent and treat kidney disease. They may be able to reverse tubular necrosis and glomerular congestion… thus making them very important for treating kidney disease. A study in the International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, on “the nephroprotective activity of fruit of Solanum torvum, was investigated against Doxorubicin (DOX) induced nephrotoxicity in rats. DOX has been proposed to be nephrotoxic due to its ability to destruct kidney cells by overproduction of Semiquinone-type free radicals. The renal tissue damage caused by DOX in humans is similar. In the phytochemical studies, it was proved that Solanum torvum is rich in flavonoid content29…. that anti-oxidant properties of flavonoids and their ability to chelate free iron could be effective in reducing the toxicity of DOX39. Histopathological changes showed that DOX caused significant structural damages to kidneys like tubular necrosis, renal lesions, and glomerular congestion which were reversed with S. torvum40”
Turkey Berry’s Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Health Benefits
An article in the International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences, on the traditional uses of Solanum torvum, says that it is “used in Cameroonian traditional medicine for the management of pain and inflammation. S. torvum has also been used for the treatment of fever, wounds, and tooth decay. Aqueous extract of S. torvum offers analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects through inhibition of production of inflammatory mediators like Prostaglandin and Cyclooxygenase.”
Other Health Benefits of Turkey Berry
Turkey berry contains saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, and glycosides. The berries are also said to regulate menstruation. They help prevent platelets from sticking together, thus helping to prevent heart attacks. It is a very powerful antioxidant that can prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes.
Traditional Medicinal Uses of Solanum torvum
(from Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 6, Fruits By T. K. Lim)
Solanum torvum has been used in folklore medicine since ancient times. The Mayans used it to treat infections, rheumatism, and vaginal bleeding that was not connected to the menstrual cycle. In India, the plant is used as an antidote to snake bites and insect stings, and the fruit is used to relieve stomach pains. The leaves are dried and ground to a powder that is used as a medicine for diabetic patients. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used in the treatment of coughs and colds and as a tonic for the liver. The young fruits are used to improve eyesight and the leaves are used to treat skin diseases. In Cameroon folk medicine, the plant is used for the treatment of fever, wounds, and tooth decay. Solanum torvum is considered a herbal remedy for Malaria in the Dangme West District of Ghana. The leaves are boiled and administered orally. The dried pounded roots are used for cracked soles in Malaysia.
Home remedies with Solanum torvum
- For stomach-related problems, fry the sundried berries and add asafoetida to it. Powder this mixture and eat it with rice and clarified butter.
- Roast the berries in clarified butter or ghee and eat them one at a time for dry cough.
- In Sierra Leone, a decoction of the fruit is given to children as cough medicine.
- In Tripura and West Bengal, fruits are crushed or cooked with dry fish and eaten with warm rice to cure rheumatic pain.
- A decoction of fruits is also considered useful for liver and spleen enlargement.
- The juice of the leaves taken orally reduces body heat.
- The freshly crushed roots can be used as a poultice to cure chapped and cracked feet.
- Fry the dried fruit in clarified butter along with equal amounts of cumin seeds and pepper. Powder these ingredients and mix with rice and consume. This powder is an effective home remedy for indigestion, gastritis, and stomachache.
- Turkey berry has been traditionally used for intestinal worms. Fry the dried berries in ghee with a little omum (carom seeds). Powder these ingredients and consume with rice.
- For anaemia, a soup made from fresh berries is a very good home remedy. Turkey berry possesses anti-anemic properties that help increase the red blood count. It contains a lot of iron.
How to make Dried Turkey Berry
In the South of India, turkey berry which is called Sundakkai is preserved in the following way.
- 1 cup Fresh turkey berry
- 1 cup Curd
- 1 tablespoon salt
Wash the turkey berry well and drain. Crush the berry slightly with a mortar and pestle, so that it splits down the middle. Once you do this, wash again. The seeds in the berry will wash out. Now leave the berries in sunlight for a couple of hours. Now beat the curd well and add the salt to it. Soak the berries in this buttermilk and keep it aside for a couple of days. Be sure to shake it every day. After 2 days, the berries will turn brown. Now scoop the berries out of the buttermilk and dry them in sunlight. It takes 2-3 days to completely dry and become crisp. Store in an airtight jar. This can be stored for about a year.
There are two ways to use these berries.
- You can fry these berries in ghee and have them with curd rice. It is very tasty.
- You can also make a gravy to go with rice, called vathal kulambu, which is made with tamarind and berries.
- You can also make a powder with this, which can be mixed with rice and ghee. This is the traditional way of eating. But you can use your imagination and add the powder to salads, dips, and raitas.
How to make turkey berry powder
- 30g dried turkey berries
- 4g of split gram dal/urad dal
- 4g cumin seeds
- 4g black pepper
- 3 Red chillies
- A gooseberry sized tamarind
- 1 tsp ghee
Add the ghee to the pan and fry the dried turkey berry till it turns dark brown. Transfer to a plate and roast the remaining ingredients except the tamarid. Now put all the ingredients in a mixer grinder along with the tamarind and grind to a coarse powder. You can also ad jaggery to it if you like. Around 1 tsp is enough for this quantity. Add salt and mix well. Store in an airtight jar. This powder tastes very good when mixed with rice along and ghee.
Turkey berry contains compounds called glycoalkaloids. When consumed in very large doses, glycoalkaloids can cause diverse digestive and neurological symptoms such as nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, dizziness, and confusion. However, Turkey berry’s concentration of glycoalkaloids naturally declines as the plant matures. Thus, it’s thought to be safer to only consume fully ripe turkey berry fruits as the unripe ones can cause negative neurological and digestive symptoms.