033. Solanum dulcamara. Woody nightshade.

Botanical name: 

033. Solanum dulcamara. 033. Solanum dulcamara. C. Synonyma. Dulcamara. Pharm. Edin.
Solanum scandens seu Dulcamara. Bauh. Pin. 176.
Glycypicros, sive Amaradulcis. J. Bauh. ii. 109.
Amara Dulcis. Gerard, emac. 350.
Solanum lignosum sive Dulcamara. Park. Theat. 350. Raii Synopsis, 265. Raii. Hist. 672.
Solanum caule flexuoso frutescente, foliis supremis tripartitis & cordato-lanceolatis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 575. Hudson Flor. Ang. p. 78. Withering. Bot. Arrang. 235. Flor. Dan. tab. 607. Curtis Flor. Lond.
(greek) Theophrast.
α. Solanum scandens seu Dulcamara. l. c.
β Solanum dulcamarum africanum foliis crassis hirsutis. Hort. Elt. Vide Hort. Kew.

Class Pentandria. Ord. Monogynia. L. Gen. Plant. 251.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor. rotata. Antherae subcoalitae, apice poro gemino dehiscentes. Bacca 2-locularis.
Spec. Char. S. cause inermi frutescente flexuoso, foliis superioribus hastatis, racemis cymosis.

The stalk is slender, climbing, alternately branched, somewhat angular, brittle, hollow, and frequently rises above six feet in height: it is covered with bark of an ash-colour, and that of the young branches is of a purple hue: the leaves are long, oval, pointed, veined, and many of those near the top are halbert-shaped, but the lower leaves are entire, and of a deep green colour: the flowers hang in loose clusters or cymae; the corolla is monopetalous, wheel-shaped, divided into five pointed segments, which are bent backwards, of a purple colour, and the base of each marked with two round green spots: the tube is short, and the faux or mouth is of a shining black colour: the calyx is small, and divides into five blunt persistent segments, of a purple colour: the five filaments are short, black, and inserted in the tube of the corolla; the antherae are yellow, erect, and unite at their points; the style is somewhat longer than the stamina, and terminated by a simple obtuse stigma; the germen is oval, and becomes a roundish bilocular berry, which finally acquires a red colour, and contains many flat yellowish seeds. It grows plentifully in hedges well supplied with water, and the flowers appear about the latter end of June.

The roots and stalks of this Nightshade, upon being chewed, first cause a sensation of bitterness, which is soon followed by a considerable degree of sweetness; and hence the plant obtained the name of Bittersweet. The berries have not yet been applied to medical life; they seem to act powerfully upon the primae viae, exciting violent vomiting and purging: thirty of them were given to a dog, which soon became mad, and died in the space of three hours, and upon opening his stomach, the berries were discovered to have undergone no change by the powers of digestion; [Floyer Pharmac. p. 86.] there can therefore be little doubt of the deleterious effects of these berries; and as they are very common in the hedges, and may be easily mistaken by children for red currants, which they somewhat resemble, this circumstance is the more worthy of notice. The stipites, or younger branches, are directed for use, in the Edinburgh Pharm. and they may be employed either fresh or dried, making a proportionate allowance in the dose of the latter for some diminution of its powers by drying. In autumn, when the leaves are fallen, the sensible qualities of the plant are laid to be the strongest, [Colliguntur stipites vel primo vere vel autummi fine, foliis destituti, tumque et odor saporque insignior. Murray Ap. Med. vol. i. p. 424.] and on this account it should be gathered in autumn rather than in spring.

Dulcamara does not manifest those narcotic qualities, which are common to many of the nightshades; it is however very generally admitted to be a medicine of considerable efficacy. Murray says that it promotes all the secretions: [Per omnia colatoria corporis efficaciam exercent. 1. c.] Haller observes that it partakes of the milder powers of the Nightshade, joined to a resolvent and saponaceous quality; [Vis partim solanacea, mitis, partim resolvens, quasi saponacea. 1. c.] and the opinion of Bergius seems to coincide with that of Murray: "Virtus: pellens urinam, sudorem, menses, lochia, sputa; mundificans." [Mat. Med. 131.] The diseases in which we find it recommended by different authors are extremely various; [See the instances adduced by Haller and Murray. l.c. Of the chief of these we may mention Phthisis, Lues venerea, Peripneumonia notha, Scorbutus, Icterus, Asthma, &c. on the authority of Boerhaave, Sauvages, Sager, and others.] but Bergius confines its use to "rheumatismus, retentio mensium & lochiorum." Dulcamara appears also, by the experiments of Razoux and others, to have been used with advantage in some obstinate cutaneous affections. [Journ. de Medecine. t. 22. p. 236.] Dr. Cullen says, "We have employed only the stipites or slender twigs of this shrub; but as we have collected them they come out very unequal, some parcels of them being very mild and inert, and others of them considerably acrid. In the latter state we have employed a decoction of them in the cure of rheumatism, sometimes with advantage, but at other times without any effect. Though the Dulcamara is here inserted in the catalogue of diuretics, it has never appeared to us as powerful in this way; for in all the trials made here, it has hardly ever been observed to be in any measure diuretic." [Mat. Med. ii. 354.] This plant is generally given in decoction or infusion, and to prevent its exciting nausea, it is ordered to be diluted with milk, and to begin with small doses, as large doses have been found to produce very dangerous symptoms. [Vide Linnaeus Diss. de Dulcamara, p. 9. Haen. rat. med. Tom. iv. p. 247. "Largior Dulcamaras usus initio et antequam ventriculus illi assueverit, nauseam et vomitum excitat, quin convulsiones et deliria, et notante cl. Govan, protractus paralysin linguae." Vide Murray l. c.] Razou directs the following: Rx Stipitum Dulcam. rec. drac. ss. in aquae font. unc. 16 coquatur ad unc. 8. This was taken in the dose of three or four drams, diluted with an equal quantity of milk every four hours. [Linnaeus directs two drams or half an ounce of the dried stipites, to be infused half an hour in boiling water, and then to be boiled ten minutes; and of this decoction he gives two tea-cups full morning and evening. l. c.]

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.