Also known as Woody Nightshade and Felonwood, this plant has often been classified as a poison. It does not however seem to have the noxious properties which distinguish the dangerous family of solanaceae to which it belongs; the young shoots are part of the normal diet of the inhabitants of several European countries. However, in irritable subjects, a small quantity of Bittersweet has produced dryness, heat in the throat, nausea and vomiting. In some cases, after a strong dose trembling, agitation, headache, stupor and other nervous symptoms have been observed. The health properties of Bittersweet have at one time been a subject of dispute, some regarding this plant as a kind of panacea, others rejecting it as inert. It does not deserve either extreme of opinion.
One doctor stated, "The difference of opinion on the properties of this substance is probably due to the fact that in general when it is administered not enough notice is taken of the effect of climate in which this substance has developed, its state of preservation and often even the doses, all being absolutely essential conditions however for determining the manifestation of its properties."
Bittersweet can be used to help support gout, joint pain, cutaneous affections; it seems to have fairly good results by causing abundant sweating and helping to stimulate renal secretion, but alone it would not be enough to help support these ailments. The most common preparations of Bittersweet are as follows: the infusion, the decoction, syrup and aqueous extracts. An alkaline substance has been discovered in the stems of this plant which has all its properties and to which the name dulcamarine has been given.
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