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from latin dulcis "sweet" and amaris "bitter"
Solanum dulcamara. Dulcis amara. D. flaxuosa. Vitis sylvestris. Caules dulc. Bittersweet. Fellon wood. Garden nightshade. Scarlet berry. Violet bloom. Woody nightshade.
German: bittersuesser Nachtschatten
Tinct. of leaves and stems.
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Lamiidae / Tubiflorae; Scrophulariales; Solanaceae - Tomato / Potato Family
History and authority: Allen's Encyclop. Mat. Med. Vol. IV. 178.
Description of the substance
The large and important natural order of Solanaceae contains, besides Henbane and the Nightshades, some of the most poisonous of our native plants, such useful economic plants as the Potato, Tomato, Aubergine Capsicum and Tobacco, also the medicinally valuable Thornapple (Datura stramonium) the Winter Cherry and the Mandrake, which in earlier days was supposed to possess miraculous properties.
The prevailing property of plants belonging to the Nightshade tribe is narcotic, rendering many of them in consequence highly poisonous.
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.
---Description---It is a perennial, shrubby plant, quite woody at the base, but throws out long, straggling, slender branches, which trail over the hedges and bushes among which it grows, reaching many feet in length, when supported by other plants. They are at first green and hairy, but become woody and smooth as they grow older, with an ashygreen bark.
The flowers, which are open all the summer, are in loose, drooping clusters, on short stalks opposite the leaves. They are of a bluish purple tint, with reflexed petals when expanded, so as almost to appear drooping. Their bright yellow stamens project in a conical form around the pistil, or seedbearing portion of the flower.
The leaves are chiefly auriculate on the upper stems, i.e. with little ears, having at their base from one to two (rarely three) wing-like segments, but are heart-shaped below. They are placed alternately on either side of the stem and arranged so that they face the light. The flower-clusters always face a different direction to the leaves. 'One may gather a hundred pieces of the Woody Nightshade, and this strange perversity is rampant in all,' remarks an observer of this very curious habit.
The berries are green at first, afterwards becoming orange and finally bright red, and are produced in constant succession throughout the summer and early autumn, many remaining on the plant long after the leaves have fallen.
Gerard says of it:
'The juice is good for those that have fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten, for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere in the intrals and to heale the hurt places.'
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 remedy for rheumatism, fever and inflammatory diseases of all kinds. There are few complaints for which it has not been at some time recommended.
Plant Mol Biol. 2000 Nov;44(5):581-9.
An osmotin-like cryoprotective protein from the bittersweet nightshade Solanum dulcamara.
Newton SS, Duman JG.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.
Cold acclimation in plants is a polygenic phenomenon involving increased expression of several genes. The gene products participate either directly or indirectly towards increasing cold tolerance. Evidence of proteins having a direct effect on cold tolerance is emerging but limited. With isolated protoplasts from warm-grown kale (Brassica oleracea) as a model system, we tested protein fractions from winter bittersweet nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, stems for the presence of proteins that have a cryoprotective effect. Purification of one such fraction resulted in isolation of a 25 kDa protein. N-terminal Edman degradation amino acid sequence analysis showed that it has high homology to osmotin and osmotin-like proteins. When added to warm-grown protoplasts, it increased the cryosurvival of frozen-thawed protoplasts by 24% over untreated or BSA-treated controls at -8 degrees C. A cDNA library which was made in November from stems and leaves of S. dulcamara was successfully screened for the corresponding cDNA clone. The deduced amino acid sequence indicated that the protein consists of 206 amino acid residues including a N-terminal signal sequence and a putative C-terminal propeptide. The mature protein, without the N-terminal signal sequence, was expressed in Escherichia coli. The partially purified protein in the supernatant fraction of the culture medium had cryoprotective activity.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 1992 May 22;1121(1-2):199-206.
Plant thermal hysteresis proteins.
Urrutia ME, Duman JG, Knight CA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN 46556.
Proteins which produce a thermal hysteresis (i.e. lower the freezing point of water below the melting point) are common antifreezes in cold adapted poikilothermic animals, especially fishes from ice-laden seas and terrestrial arthropods. However, these proteins have not been previously identified in plants. 16 species of plants collected from northern Indiana in autumn and winter had low levels of thermal hysteresis activity, but activity was absent in summer. This suggests that thermal hysteresis proteins may be a fairly common winter adaptation in angiosperms. Winter stem fluid from the bittersweet nightshade, Solanum dulcamara L., also showed the recrystallization inhibition activity characteristic of the animal thermal hysteresis proteins (THPs), suggesting a possible function for the THPs in this freeze tolerant species. Other potential functions are discussed. Antibodies to an insect THP cross reacted on immunoelectroblots with proteins in S. dulcamara stem fluid, indicating common epitopes in the insect and plant THPs.