The genus Solanum - to which the older herbalists formerly assigned Atropa Belladonna, and to which the Potato and Aubergine belong, is represented in this country by two species: Solanum nigrum (Black or Garden Nightshade) and S. dulcamara (Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade). The leaves bear a certain resemblance to those of Belladonna, and the flowers of both Bittersweet and Belladonna are purple, though totally distinct in shape, and both have berries, red in the case of Bittersweet, not black as in the Belladonna. Bittersweet is common throughout Europe and America. It abounds in almost every hedgerow in England, where it is rendered conspicuous in the summer by its bright purple flowers, and in autumn by its brilliant red berries. Belladonna for which it is often mistaken is rare.
In the days of belief in witchcraft, shepherds used to hang it as a charm round the necks of those of their beasts whom they suspected to be under the evil eye.
The older physicians valued Bittersweet highly and applied it to many purposes in health and surgery, for which it is no longer used. It was in great repute as far back as the time of Theophrastus, and we know of it being in use in this country in the thirteenth century.
Boerhaave, the celebrated Dutch physician, considered the young shoots superior to Sarsaparilla as a restorative, and Linnaeus, who at first had an aversion to the plant, later spoke of it in the highest terms as a supportive for joint pain, fever and inflammatory problemss of all kinds. There are few complaints for which it has not been at some time recommended.
It is chiefly used as an alterative in skin problems, being a popular supportive for obstinate skin eruptions, scrofula and ulcers. It has also been recommended in chronic bronchial catarrh, asthma and whooping cough.
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Stir 1/4 of a teaspoon into a glass of water and consume 3 times daily, with meals.
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