News & Notes 644:About Nightshades
There are more than 2,000 plants belonging to the family of the 'Nightshades'. Some of them we know very well and we like and eat them without thinking much about whether they are related or not. Best known are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant (brinjal) and capsicum/chilly.
Like many other edible plants nightshades contain some toxins. Nothing to worry about, normally, as human beings usually can deal with such toxins if not eaten in too big quantities and often cooking even eliminates such toxins. Nightshades however produce some types of neurotoxins, different from each other in the way of acting and which are not eliminated through cooking. And while some of these toxins can be quickly eliminated by our bodies it is not like this with solanine. Solanine is eliminated very slowly, such that a 'normal' nightshade eater is accumulating lots of this toxin in his or her lifetime in the body.
Interestingly, some centuries ago, when tomatoes, potatoes and capsicum/chilly came from America, and brinjal from Asia to Europe, these plants were considered as poisonous and for a long period of time they were cultivated only for ornamental or medical reasons. Only periods of starvation and economic reasons finally brought them into the kitchen of the common people. Most of all potatoes as they have a lot of beneficial properties, they are easy and cheap to cultivate and can be stored for long periods of time.
Most people today can deal quite well with these vegetables, their bodies are used to them and it seems they digest them well . But, and that's why I write this article, there seems to be also quite a number of people who cannot. I went myself through the bad experience of years’ long bad digestion which disappeared overnight after having stopped eating nightshades. Recently I read a book about this topic ('Nightshade free, pain free'), for which the author collected all kind of information about nightshades: history, toxins, university studies about health problems related to potatoes. He describes also how the powder of raw potatoes acts as a pesticide in agriculture and how in ancient times people used nightshades to poison and kill each other. And also, and this is important, how some very common modern diseases like Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other ailments might in many cases be related to the consumption of nightshades.
So what to do? Well, I think that people anyway will continue eating nightshades. But they should observe how their bodies react to them and keep in mind that if there are arthritis or chronic digestive problems or other reactions to give a try and stop eating nightshades for a while. There is a lot of information in the internet as well.
If you are interested in stopping eating nightshades or eating less for some time you will also find out that it is quite difficult in Auroville to find places where a nightshade free meal is offered. The only one I know and which I can recommend is Solitude Farm Café. It offers a Thali which is prepared without nightshades (only 99.9% nightshade free as there is a bit of chilly always) on request.