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, tamrind, 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 the 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 drug. 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 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 have 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 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 tradional 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 which 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 menstural 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 which 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 a 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 freshy 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 helps increase the red blood count. It contains a lot of iron.