Night Shade Vegetables

Original Image by liz west via Flickr
Original Image by liz west via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Night shade vegetables share a common trait, they containing alkaloids and have a bad reputation on joints, arthritis and one’s nervous system.  Never heard of night shade vegetables?  Perhaps, you’ve heard of potatoes, cayenne pepper, pimentos, paprika, tomatillos, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers and tomatoes?  These foods all contain alkaloids and have been shown to impact nerve muscle function and digestive function.
Night shade vegetables originate from the solanaceae family.  In the beginning, it was believed night shade vegetables were poisonous or had evil side effects, hence the name.  The amount of alkaloids in potatoes can be indicated by sprouted spots in potatoes and is a result of defense against insects .  The sprouted part should be efficiently removed before cooking and use.   In scientific terms, alkaloids can be indicated by at least one ring structure containing nitrogen.  The alkaloids that are produced as a byproduct of plant activity help protect plants from insects.
  1. steroid alkaloids–complicated ring structure; found in potatoes and tomatoes
  2. tropane alkaloids–all from amino acid ornithine; less commonly found in alkaloids
  3. pyrrolizidine alkaloids–produced as defense mechanism against insect herbivores
  4. indole alkaloids–contains moiety of indole; biochemical precursor: tryptophan
Impact of night shade vegetables on nervous system:
A lot of night shade vegetables have come under scrutiny in regards to their impact on health since a high consumption of alkaloids have been questioned.  As stated before, alkaloids are produced as a protective shield against insects.
  • Can inhibit enzyme activity, such as cholinesterase inhibition causing problems with nervous system
  • Allergies may occurs, with symptoms including: stiffness in joints, inflammation, dizziness, nausea, migraines and/or weakness or fatigue
  • Arthritis or joint problems can occur from excess loss of calcium from bones or excess deposition of calcium in soft tissues from alkaloids

Studies have shown that those with arthritis that stop consuming night shade vegetables for some time have seen a dramatic improvement.
Suggestions for consumption of night shade vegetables:

Original Image by 16:9clue via Flickr
Original Image by 16:9clue via Flickr
  • Avoid eating stems, leaves or flowers
  • Only eat fruit at ripest
  • Only eat fruit of plants
  • Store potatoes 1-3 weeks in dark, cool place instead of light area that could increase alkaloid formation
  • Do not purchase potatoes that have been waxed
  • Remove green parts of tomato, eggplant and/or potatoes
  • Wash vegetables properly and thoroughly
Definitely contact your doctor if you have concerns about arthritis and/or joint pain and now that you know what night shade vegetables entail, you can keep an eye out for green spots!


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