Solanum dulcamara is a plant I researched in my PhD work. My work revealed that it had adaptogenic activity and that it needed to be tested for its ability to strengthen general health and vitality.
Chapter from My PhD Thesis
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
Chapter from My PhD Thesis
Solanum dulcamara is a wayside weed indigenous to Europe and naturalised in North America . Gerard, writing in 1633, reports the leaves and the wood were useful in removing obstructions in the liver and gall bladder and that they were used to cure spleen problems and jaundice. According to Gerard, individuals having fallen from high places or having been dry beaten or those with great bruising healed faster with the administration of this drug. Specifically, it was used to speed the removal of congealed blood on the surface or within the body cavity. (14) The weed, and knowledge of its medicinal action, came to North America with the English colonials. Initially a domestic medicine, the drug eventually became official in the USP.
Eclectic Uses (1–11)
Feeble narcotic, diuretic, alterative, diaphoretic, discutient, aperient, increases/influences waste and excretion, marked influence on the cerebra-spinal centres, normalises secretions after exposure to cold and damp.
“Scaly skin affections; acute disorders due to colds and dampness; deficient capillary circulation in the skin; diminished cutaneous action with urinous odor; coldness and blueness of the extremities; full tissues with tendency to oedema.” (9)
Cutaneous disease, syphilitic disease, rheumatic disease, cachectic affections, ill conditioned ulcers, tuberculosis, scrofula, scrofulous cachexia, indurations from milk, jaundice, inflammatory deposits, chronic diseases in which circulation is feeble, hand and feet cold and purplish, with fullness of tissues and tendency to oedema, gouty conditions, in eruptive diseases, retrocession of eruption or tardy eruption, suppression of secretions due to exposure to cold, all diseases characterised by impairment of the blood, rheumatism or secretion abnormalities resulting from long continued exposure to cold and dampness, eruptive fevers.
Cold and purplish extremities, impaired circulation.
Poor glandular secretion, stomach troubles, diarrhoea of children.
Obstructed menstruation, leucorrhea, suppression of the menses, with headache, nausea, chilly sensations, when the flow has been arrested by cold, vesical catarrh aggravated by dampness, great sexual excitement, lack of sexual excitement, nymphomania, satyriasis, acute ovarian congestion, hyperaesthesia of the sex organs, spermatorrhea with undue excitement, priapism, poor urinary secretion, catarrh of the bladder.
Acute and chronic rheumatism of those exposed to or dwelling in damp cold quarters.
Mania with sexual excitement, irritation of the nervous centres accompanied with great nausea, nervous irritation with depression.
Diseases of the respiratory apparatus, catarrhal troubles resulting from cold and suspended cutaneous secretion, dyspnoea, cough, pain in the chest produced by exposure, catarrhal headache from acute colds and nasal catarrh, bronchial or nasal catarrh, acute bronchitis, acute coryza, lung congestion with bronchial cough with pain in the chest, bronchial asthma.
Scaly skin conditions, chronic scaly skin conditions, lepra, psoriasis, pityriasis, topically in painful tumours, ulcers, erysipelatous affections, obstinate cases of pustular, vesicular, or scaly eruptions of the skin, prurigo, tetter, eczema, pustular eczema’s, vesicular disorders, skin disorders of children from disordered blood and deranged stomach, abnormal states of the skin caused by syphilis or tuberculosis.
The drug from Selye’s perspective
State of Resistance
The drug was used to raise resistance to acute bronchitis, coryza, coughs, colds, syphilis, rheumatism, tuberculosis, gout, eruptive disease, cold, damp, and respiratory tract disease.
State of Exhaustion
The drug was used when resistance to chronic disease could no longer be maintained and State of Exhaustion set in. Diseases, causing State of Exhaustion , treated by this drug, included terminal syphilis, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and any disease characterised by bad blood. The signs of State of Exhaustion , treated by this drug, included respiratory disease, depressed nervous function, abnormal states of the skin, cachectic affections, wasting, ill conditions ulcers, mucous membrane abnormalities, inflammatory deposits in the tissues, feeble circulation, purple hands and feet, cold extremities, oedema, suppression of excretion, dyspepsia, and endocrine malfunction.
From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. It was used to raise resistance to acute infections like colds and influenza. It was used to raise resistance to chronic infections like syphilis and tuberculosis. It was used to raise resistance to environmental stressors like cold and damp. It was used when State of Exhaustion set in. Indeed, the clinical picture of a patient treated with Solanum dulcamara almost perfectly matches Selye’s depiction of State of Exhaustion . Lastly, the drug was used to stimulate healing in slow healing wounds.
Brekhman’s Adaptogen Criterion
An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.Inconclusive. Eclectic literature reports the drug to be innocuous in nature. (1–11) Contemporary literature reports the drug to be potentially dangerous. Foster and Duke said this of it, “Contains steroids, toxic alkaloids, and glucosides. Causes vomiting, vertigo, convulsions, weakened heart, paralysis.” (12) However, contemporary literature does not comment on the specific part of the plant or the doses used by the Eclectics.The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.Clinically the drug was used to increase resistance to acute and chronic bacterial infection, immune dysfunction (auto, hyper, and hypo), and to exposure to cold and damp. (1–11)Experimentally, the drug contains compounds that increase resistance to viral infection (herpes, polio), tumours (bladder, breast, and cervix), bacterial infection (Staph), fatigue, liver damage, cancer, free radical damage, poisoning, and fungal infection. (13)An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.Clinically, the drug was used to normalise the changes associated with stage of exhaustion including mucous membrane and skin ulceration, abnormal mucous membrane secretion, catabolic shifts in metabolism, wasting, weight loss, abnormalities in capillary circulation, membrane permeability abnormalities, endocrine abnormalities, temperature abnormalities, and dyspeptic states of the digestive tract. (1–11)Experimentally, compounds found in the drug have been shown to normalise inflammation, hypercholesterolemia, ulceration, bronchoconstriction, temperature abnormalities, and rheumatism. (13)
The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. It is innocuous; it raises resistance to an assortment of biological threats, and normalises abnormal physiological function.Solanum dulcamara is still known today to a limited extent. If one hears it discussed, it will be discussed in the context of chronic skin disease. This use dates back to the Eclectics who, on the surface, used the drug to treat skin disease.However, it was not freestanding chronic skin disease. The drug was used when chronic disease had debilitated a patient to the extent that the vital forces were depleted. As a consequence of this depletion, normal physiology was lost and in its place stood either depressed or perverted function. Wasting, chronic skin affections, mucous membrane ulceration were all a part of the clinical picture of a person in constitutional collapse. Solanum dulcamara was used to treat chronic skin disease, but when chronic skin disease was symptomatic of constitutional collapse (State of Exhaustion ).More importantly, the Eclectics used the drug to raise resistance to stressors, namely infectious disease, autoimmune disease, and weather hardships (cold, damp). They did so to prevent constitutional collapse from ever becoming an issue.
Potential Clinical Applications
Historically, the drug was used to raise resistance to a variety of stressors. The drug may have a role in raising resistance to acute and chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and atmospheric hardship.
• The toxicity of Solanum dulcamara as used by the Eclectics. The drug, collected and prepared per the Eclectic directions, should be studied from the toxicological perspective.
• Solanum dulcamara and its effects on GAS. The drug should be tested out in the animal model to determine its specific effects on the GAS.
• Solanum dulcamara and its effects on State of Exhaustion . The drug was used to stabilise patients in State of Exhaustion . Its role in raising resistance to State of Exhaustion should be established.
• Solanum dulcamara and weather hardships. The drug was used to raise resistance to cold and damp. It should be tested out to determine its role in raising resistance to such hardships.
The drug is readily grown.
• King, John. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P. 895.
• Dyer, D. The Eclectic Family Physician A scientific System of Medicine on Vegetable Principles Designed for Families. 1855.
• Scudder, J. M. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition. Wilstach, Baldwin and Company. Cincinnati . 1874. P. 248.
• Scudder, J. M. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Cincinnati . 1883. P. 486.
• Neiderkorn, JS. The Physicians and Students Ready Guide to Specific Medication. The Little Printing Company. Bradford , Ohio . 1892.
• Watkins, Lyman. An Eclectic Compendium of The Practice of Medicine. John M.Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P. 433.
• Felter, Harvey Wickes and Lloyd, John Uri. Kings’ American Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 667.
• Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati . 1901. P. 252.
• Neiderkorn, JS. A Handy Reference Book. Published for the Author. Cincinnati . 1905. P. 129.
• Fyfe, John William. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. 1903. P. 280.
• Ellingwood, Finley. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P. 371.
• Foster, Stephen and Duke, James. Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants. Houghton and Mifflin Company. Boston . 1990. P. 182.
• Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.
• Johnson, Gerard. The Herbal or General History of Plants. London . 1633. P. 350.
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
1854; King J; (Materia Medica) – SOLANUM DULCAMARA
Properties and Uses – Solanum Dulcamara is feebly narcotic, diuretic, alterative, diaphoretic, and discutient. It has been chiefly used in syrup or decoction in cutaneous diseases, syphilitic diseases, rheumatic and cachetic affections, ill-conditioned ulcers, scrofula, indurations from milk, leucorrhea, jaundice, and obstructed menstruation. It is of more benefit in scaly cutaneous diseases, than others, as in lepra, psoriasis, and pityriasis, and especially when combined with guaiacum, and yellow dock root. When taken in large doses it produces nausea, vomiting, faintness, vertigo, and spasmodic action of the muscles. With many persons, the face and hands become purplish, and the circulation depressed while under its influence. It is said to be antaphrodisiac, and has proved useful in mania in which the venereal functions were strongly excited. Equal parts of the twigs, yellow dock root, and stillingia, made into syrup, form a valuable preparation for scrofulous affections, as well as syphilitic. Externally, in the form of ointment, it is employed as a discutient to painful tumors, also as an application to some forms of cutaneous disease, ulcers, and erysipelatous affections. Dose of the decoction or syrup, one or two fluidounces; of the extract, from two to five grains; of the powdered leaves, from ten to thirty grains.
1855; Dyer (Vegetable Principles) – SOLANUM DULCAMARA – BITTERSWEET
This grows in swamps and on the banks of small streams. It has a woody stock and runs or winds itself on trees to a height of from twelve to forty feet. It is called woodvine by some. The bark on the root is the part used. See Scrofulous Syrup and Bittersweet Ointment.
Prepare a tincture from the fresh twigs gathered in the fall, when the leaves have fallen. 35viij.to alchol 70%Oj.Dose,from gtt.j to gtts.x.The bittersweet has the reputation of being a good alterative, in cutaneous diseases,syphilis, scrofula and inflammatory deposits, and we conclude tht it increases waste and excretion. It exerts a marked influence upon the cerebro-spinal centers, when used in large doses, but this has not been studied.I would advise the employment of the remedy in small doses in those cases of chronic disease in hwich the circulation is feeble, the ands and feet cold and purplish, with fullness oftissues and tendecy to edema. I do not know that it wil prove better than other remedies, but it deserves investigation.
1883: Scudder: (alterative)(The twigs of Solanum Dulcamara)
Therapeutic Action – Dulcamara is alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, aperient, discutient and narcotic. It has been classed by some authors with narcotics, as when given in very large doses it produces vertigo, dimness of vision, nausea, vomiting, faintness, etc. In medicinal doses, if the surface is kept warm, it frequently acts as a diaphoretic, but if kept cool, as a diuretic.It is principally employed as an alterative in chronic cutaneous diseases; more especially in those of a scaly character, as leprous psoriasis and pityriasis. It has also been employed with advantage in chronic diseases of the respiratory apparatus, and gouty and rheumatic affections.
As alterative in cutaneous diseases, syphiliis, scrogula and inflammatory deposits, especially when we have a feeble circulation, cold purplish extremities,fullness of tissue, tendency to oedema and a scaly condition of the skin.
1895: Watkins: SOLANUM CAR
feeble circulation , coldness of extremities, fullness of tissue, oedema.Epilepsy, muscular twitchings, patient seems dazed, attacks brought on by slightest excitement, perverted appetite, constipation. Ten drops of the tincture to four ounces of water; teaspoonful every two hours.
1895: Watkins: DULCAMARA, SP MED:
Diminished perspiration with uriniferous odor, deficient cutaneous circulation, feet and hands cold and bluish, fullness of tissues with tendency to oedema. Ten to thirty drops every four hours.
Dulcamara has a great influence on the organs of secretion and excretion, and its principal value is as an alterative. Next to specific dulcamara the tincure of the twigs to one pint of alcohol. This makes a very good tincture and may be fiven in doses of three or four drops every three or four hours.An infusion of one ounce of the twigs to one pint of waer may also be used in tablespoonful doses,either preparation exerting a specific influence on the skin, being very valuable in chronic cutaneous diseases. It is a good alterative in obstinate cases of pustular, vesicular, or scaly eruptians on the skin. Give from five to ten drops of the tincture three times a day. It is useful in catarrhal troubles resulting from cold and suspended cutaneous secretion. Give it in small doses.
1905: Neiderkorn: sp.med
Scaly skin affections;coldness and blueness of extremities, scrofulous cacheia. dose: from five to ten drops every three hours.
1909: Felter and Lloyd: DULCAMARA (U.S.P.) – DULCAMARA
History and Description – Bittersweet, also known by the names of Violet-bloom and Scarlet-berry, is common to both Europe and this country, growing on moist …, around dwellings, and in low, damp grounds, about hedges and thickets, flowering in June and July. Its berries are ripened in autumn and hang upon the vines for several months. The parts used in medicine are the roots and twigs, the latter only being official. The berries when eaten have certainly produced serious consequences, though considered by many to be harmless. The twigs should be collected in the autumn, after the dropping of the foliage; they have an unpleasant odor, which is lost by drying; and their taste is bitter, followed by some sweetness and a slight acridity. The dried twigs found in commerce are in pieces varying in length, having a greenish-gray epidermis, a light wood, and a very light and spongy pith. They impart their properties by infusion to boiling water, and also to diluted alcohol; long boiling impairs their medicinal activity. The U.S.P. describes dulcamara as follows: “About 5 Mm (1/5 inch) or less thick, cylindrical, somewhat angular, longitudinally striate, more or less warty, usually hollow in the center, cut into short sections. The thin bark is externally pale greenish, or light greenish-brown, marked with alternate leaf-scars, and internally green; the greenish or yellowish wood forms 1 or 2 concentric rings. Odor slight, taste bitter, afterwards sweet” – (U.S.P.).
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Prof. Caylus, of Leipsic, who has made some careful experiments with solanine, as well as with the twigs of dulcamara, states that an extract of the twigs is from 5 to 10 times more active than the twigs, and solanine is 30 times more powerful than this extract. He considers the plant and its active principles to possess poisonous properties, which may prove fatal in large doses. All these preparations, when administered internally, cause renal congestion, and occasionally an augmented urinary secretion of an albuminous nature; they exert a depressing or paralyzing influence upon the respiratory nervous system, cause increased but enfeebled cardiac action, tetanic spasms of the thoracic muscles as well as those of the extremities, and increase the sensitiveness of the cutaneous nervous system; they exert no direct influence upon the brain, stomach, or bowels. He believes they act more particularly on the spinal cord and medulla oblongata, and recommends the acetate of solanine, in doses of 1/2 to 1 grain, in pulmonary maladies, attended with spasm or irritation (Ann. de Ther., 1859, P.24).
Solanum Dulcamara is a mild narcotic, diuretic, alterative, diaphoretic, and discutient. In large doses it causes dryness and heat with stinging pain in the fauces, accompanied with thirst, sickness at stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea, prostration or syncope, and spasmodic twitchings. With some persons it depresses the action of the heart and arteries, and causes a moderate degree of lividity on the hands and face. The head usually feels heavy and dizzy, and a cutaneous erythema may be developed. It is reputed antaphrodisiac, and has proved beneficial in mania attended with powerful excitement of the venereal functions. On the other hand, it is said to occasion venereal desires, and to induce heat and itching of the external female parts, attended with strangury.Dulcamara is a valuable remedy in most acute troubles, brought on by colds, and in chronic skin affections of a pustular, vesicular, or scaly character. It has been chiefly used in syrup or decoction in cutaneous diseases, syphilitic diseases, rheumatic and cachectic affections, ill-conditioned ulcers, scrofula, indurations from milk, leucorrhoea, jaundice, and obstructed menstruation. It is of more benefit in scaly cutaneous diseases than in others, as in leprosy, tetter, eczema, and porrigo, an despecially in combination with guaiacum and yellow-dock root.Dulcamara is a remedy for catarrhal troubles, resulting from cold or suspended cutaneous action.
Here the fractional doses should be employed. Suppression of the menses, with headache, nausea, and chilly sensations, when the flow has been arrested by cold, is a case for its exhibition. Dyspnoea, cough, and pain in the chest produced by exposure, are relieved by small doses. Catarrhal headache, from acute colds, an dnasal catarrh are both benefited by bitter-sweet, which is also a remedy for retrocession of eruptions, and to primarily develop tardy eruptions. Owing to its kindly action on the stomach and its influence in aiding secretion and excretion, it is a valuable alterative and should have a more general use. In vesical catarrh, aggravated by dampness, it has given good results. The same is true of catarrhal diarrhoea of children, and acute and chronic rheumatism in those who are much exposed or who dwell in cold or damp quarters. Nymphomania and satyriasis were successfuly treated with it by Dewees. Pundendal itching an dstitching pains have been relieved by it in small doses. Large doses have produced these troubles. Dr. Scudder suggests a trial of the drug in “small doses in those cases of chronic disease in which the circulation is feeble, the hands and feet cold and purplish, with fullness of tissues and tendency to oedema” (Spec. Med., 246). Equal parts of the twigs, yellow-dock root, and stillingia made into a syrup, form a valuable preparation for scrofulous affections, as well as syphilitic. Externally, in the form of ointment, it is employed as a discutient to painful tumors; also as an application to some forms of cutaneous disease, ulcers, and erysipelatous affections. Dose of the decoction or syrup, 1 or 2 fluid ounces; of the extract, from 2 to 5 grains; of the powdered leaves, from 10 to 30 grains; specific dulcamara, fraction of a drop to 30 drops. Small doses act best. The decoction is prepared from 1 ounce of fresh twigs and sufficient water to produce, after boiling for 15 minutes, 1 pint of decoction.
Specific Indications and Uses – Scaly skin affections; acute disorders due to colds and dampness; deficient capillary circulation in the skin; diminished cutaneous action with urinous odor; coldness and blueness of the extremities; full tissues with tendency to oedema.
Suppression of secretions, caused by exposure to cold, bronchial and nasal catarrh, acute bronchitis, cold and purplish extremities, feeble circulation, fullness of tissues, scaly condition of the skin, pustular eczema’s, abnormal states of the skin caused by scrofula and syphilis, irritation of the nervous system accompanied by great nausea, acute ovarian congestion, catarrh of th ebladder, greact excitemt of the veneral functions. Dulcamara is an efficient remedy in scrofula, syphilis and all diseases characterized by an impairment of the blood. In rheumatism resulting from long continued exposure to cold and dampness, it is also a remedial agent which should not be neglected.
1919: Ellingwood: SOLANUM DULCAMARA: DULCAMARA
Synonyms – Bitter-sweet, woody nightshade.
Constituents – Dulcamarin, solanine, gum, resin, wax.
Preparations – Extractum Dulcamarae Fluidum, Fluid Extract of Dulcamara.
Dose- from half to one dram.
Specific Medicine: Dulcamara. Dose, from one-half to ten minims.
Potatoes and tomatoes belong to this family, and although the fruit is edible, the vines are usually poisonous. Solanine may be obtained from the new sprouts of the ordinary potato.
Physiological Action – This agent is a powerful poison to all living protoplasm. It coagulates the blood and destroys the integrity of the corpuscles.Injected into the veins it causes dyspnoea, thrombosis in the vessels and arrest of respiration. Toxic doses produce tremors, muscular contractions, central paralysis, collapse, coma, a violent fall of the temperature and death.It is a narcotic, and in toxic doses causes nausea, vomiting, faintness, pain in the joints, numbness of the limbs, dryness of the mouth, convulsive movements, a small hard pulse, paralysis of the tongue, a pruplish color of the face and hands, twitching of the eyelids and lips, trembling of the limbs, erythematous eruption, suppression of venereal desire, though recovery has followed after very large doses. Clarus administered six grains of solanine, which produced general cephalic distress, with occipital pain, increase of the frequency and loss of the force of the pulse, followed after some hours by sudden vomiting, diarrhoea, great weakness, and marked dyspnoea.
Therapy – Dulcamara is a remedy for all conditions resulting from suppression of secretion, from exposure to cold and dampness. It will restore normal excretion and secretion.In acute coryza, in bronchial and nasal catarrh, in lung congestion and bronchial cough, with pain in the chest, all from cold, in bronchail asthma, and in acute bronchitis it is an excellent auxiliary remedy.In eruptive fevers it assists in determining the eruption to the surface, especially if there is restrocession. It has a direct action upon the skin also, being given in pustular eczemas and vesicular disorders quite freely. It has produced good results in psoriasis, pityriasis, lepra, and other scaly skin disorders. It acts as an alterative in such cases, and will influence the skin derangements of scrofula and syphilis to a certain extent. It is available in the various skin disorders of childhood from disordered blood and deranged stomach.It is an excellent alterative, if administered with care, and is therefore valuable in syphilis, scrofula, and other blood disorders. In acute and chronic rheumatism from exposure to dampness and cold, and in gout, it has been advantageously used.Nervous irritation with depression, with hyperesthesia of the organs, an dpruritus pudendi are relived by it. It may be used in spermatorrhoea with undue excitement, priapism, nymphomania and satyriasis. it should be given first in small doses, increased to full amount if necessary. In suppression of the menses with headache and nausea and acute ovarian congestion, it will work well.It is advised in the treatment of catarrh of the bladder, and as a stimulant to the urinary secretion.
Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.