No. 86. Solanum dulcamara.
Names. Bitter-sweet Nightshade.
Fr. Solane douceamere.
Vulgar. Bitter-sweet Vine, Nightshade Vine, Violet bloom, Scarlet Berry.
Classif. Nat. Order of Lurides. Pentandria monogynia L.
Genus SOLANUM. Calyx five cleft, persistent. Corolla rotate, five cleft. Stamens five, anthers coherent, with two pores above. One pistil, style and stigma. Berry two celled, many seeded.
Sp. Solanum dulcamara. L. Stem shrubby, twining, inerme, flexuose: leaves ovate, subcordate, commonly with two auricles at the base: panicles cymose.
Description. Woody vine, creeping or climbing to the extent of five or six feet, base woody, end or last shoots herbaceous, flexuose, without thorns, smooth, terete. Leaves alternate, petiolate, ovate acute, entire, base subcordate, and often with one or two small lobes like auricles at the base, with obtuse sinusses. Flowers on peduncles opposed to the leaves, bearing a loose cluster or cymose panicle of many tiowers, of a pretty violet color, with yellow anthers. Calyx small, acute. Corolla nearly five parted, segments acute, ovate, lanceolate, each with two whitish dots or glands at the base, often reflexed. Filaments very short, anthers erect, forming a yellow conical tube. Pistil oval, style filiform, exert, stigma obtuse, simple. Berries oval, of a bright scarlet.
History. The genus Solanum includes a multitude of species of opposite characters and properties, very wrongly blended by Linnaeus, who abolished the genera Lycopersicon, Melongena, &c. of Tournefort. They must be re-established, and the whole genus revised; the following genera must be separated at least:
1. Lycopersicon. Calyx and corolla, 6 to 12 parted, and stamens from six to twelve. Berry multilocuiar. The tomato belongs here and S. fugax, &c.
2. Melongena. Calyx unequal, three to six cleft. Corolla campanulate, four to six cleft. Stamens four to equal. Berry spongy. S. melongeno, S. stellatum, &c.
3. Otilix. Raf. Calyx appendiculated. Stamens five, not connivent. Seeds osseous. S. licioides, &c.
4. Androcera. N. Calyx swelled, caducous. Corolla subringent. Stamens unequal, anthers free, hornlike. Style declinated. Berry dry. S. lobata or S. heteranthum of Pursh.
The S. dulcamara is a true Solanum. It is a native of Europe, Asia, and North America, where it grows in the Eastern and Northern States, from New England to Ohio, &c. in shady fertile grounds, blossoming from June to August. The berries stand on the vine till very late. There are many varieties of this plant, such as, 1. Heterophylla, common kind. 2. Isophylla, leaves consimilar not auriculated. 3. Maritima, with pubescent leaves. 4. Repens, stem procumbent and creeping. 5. Pandurata, leaves lyrate, pandurate. These two last most frequent in the wild state in America. It is a handsome vine, often cultivated in gardens.
Properties. The whole plant is used as a depurative, deobstruent, antiherpetic, narcotic, diuretic, anodyne, repellent, &c. The taste is sweetish and bitter, whence the name; the smell is somewhat nauseous, but much less so than in S. nigrum and other species. Its active principles are the solanic acid, a peculiar substance, called Solania, a mucous extractive, &c: they are more soluble in water than in alcohol. A very beneficial article in many diseases, now neglected by the chemical school, but adequate to produce nearly all the good effects of sulphur, antimony, and mercury, in chronic rheumatism, gout, secondary syphilis, incipient phthisis, asthma, jaundice, herpes, lepra, and all cutaneous affections. It has also been used in pleurisy, peripneumonia, dyslochia, amenorrhea, and scrofula. While externally, it is very useful in contusion, the itch, herpetic sores, sore nipples, schirrous swellings, nay, even the cancer, and the worst kinds of ulcers. The common way to use it is in decoction; but the American varieties are very powerful; Bigelow states that a few grains of the fresh leaves, or a small cup of the decoction have been known to vomit. A great difference in strength is observed in the various parcels kept in the shops: the plants growing in a dry soil and warm climates are strongest; by drying, much of their strength is lost. A slight nausea, vertigo, and palpitation, are evidences of its operation. A palatable syrup may be made with it and some aromatic substances. In general, it increases all the secretions and excretions, excite the heart and arteries, and in large doses, produces emesis, spasms, delirium, giddiness, palpitations, convulsions, and insensibitity.
The first doses ought to be always moderate and gradually increased, beginning with one ounce of the decoction, or five grains of the extract, three times daily. Dr. Haller and others have cured the cancer, by topical application of the juice and green leaves. It is perhaps the best cure for the loathsome lepra, by using it internally, and externally as a wash, also for all kinds of herpetic eruptions, ulcerous sores, &c. in the same way. It is deemed a valuable auxiliary to mercury in syphilitic eruptions. Thus it avails in all cutaneous diseases of the skin; twenty-one cases of lepra were cured out of twenty-three, by Dr. Chricton. It increases the power of sarsaparilla in all cases, and is an ingredient in all depurative medicines and panaceas. It is a palliative in pituitous and tubercular phthisis. It always acts as a diuretic and aperient. It has been found useful in chronic venereal pains, osteocopic pains, inflammatory fevers, violent asthma, chronic rheumatism, and stiffness in the muscles and joints.
The Solanum virginianum, which some deem a variety of S. nigrum, and grows all over the United States in fields, road sides, &c. is easily known by its herbaceous winged erect stem, small white flowers, berries black, and ovate repand leaves. It possesses nearly all the properties of S. dulcamara, nay, is more narcotic and virulent, also hypnotic, sedative, &c. One to three grains of the leaves infused in water, produce a copious perspiration, profuse diuresis, and often purge next day; a larger dose affects the nervous system. Therefore, this plant is very active, and if substituted, must be given carefully and gradually. The berries are poisonous, causing coma, torpor, burning in the stomach, fever, nausea, stupor, insensibility. The extract is less violent, but highly sedative. The leaves poison hogs and fowls. They have been used internally for inflammation of the stomach and bowels, ardor of urine, dropsical complaints, internal and syphilitic pains, obstinate herpetic and scorbutic eruptions, ulcers of a cancerous nature, &c. The dose, one or two grains. Externally, they are still more useful in poultice, for headache, phlegmon, schirrous, erysipelas, painful inflamed sores, even scrofulous and cancerous, foul chronic ulcers, and every other disease of the skin.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.