In de winter zoek ik niet alleen buiten naar planten, maar ook binnen in boeken en natuurlijk op het wereldwijde web. Vooral oude afbeeldingen van Dioscorides en consoorten kunnen mij spiritueel aanspreken. Met die afbeeldingen rationeel planten determineren is niet vanzelfsprekend, het zijn eerder schilderijtjes van schoonheid. Alhoewel de onderstaande Zwarte nachtschade van Dioscorides wel goed te herkennen is.
Solanum nigrum / Dioscorides
STRYCHNOS MEGAS KEPAIOS (Nightshade)
Solanum dulcamara / Bitterzoet
Solanum nigrum, this decorative plant, with whitish flowers and black berries, is related to our bitter-sweet “solanum dulcamara,” the “deadly nightshade” that grows in shady places and therefore was already called in Old English: “nihtscada.” Both plants were considered highly toxic for a time and were early used as a pain-killer as the name “solanum” and “solamentum” expresses. During the superstitious Middle Ages, Solanum was also used in witch’s salves, together with aconite, henbane, belladonna and thorn apple. The name “dwale”, which in the 13th century meant a stupefying drink, alludes to the supposed narcotic effect of the berry juice. Hans von Gerssdorf in his surgery book (Feldtbuch der Wundtarztney) from 1517 transmits the solanum plant as an anaesthetic in operations but stresses its dangerousness.
The widespread opinion that the plant, especially its berry, contains a dangerous dose of the poisonous alkaloid solanin is disputed today, since it has been proved that solanin is present in the stems only in very modest quantities. This verifies the view of the doctors of antiquity such as Dioscorides and Plinius who do not mention anything about the toxicity of the plant. Thus Solanum nigrum was also planted in Greece as a vegetable and the berries were eaten as fruit. Dioscorides speaks of the edible “garden strychnos,” so that the plant appears again in the 16th century under the name “solanum hortense,” (e.g. in P. A. Mattioli, New Kräuterbuch, Prague, 1653). The oil contained in the berries, similar to castor-oil, has caused the berries to be used as a purgative. The belief in a strong solanin content brought the solanum application in cases of skin disease, herpes, eczema, psoriasis, as well as with catarrh and rheumatism. The fresh leaves were used as external poultice for sores and haemorrhoids. The slightly toxic plant has been preserved until the present day, especially as a purgative.