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The Antidote for Nightshades

The Antidote for Nightshades

This one’s for the folks who are intolerant of potatoes and occasionally need an antidote for nightshades.

(I promise tomorrow I will write something more universal, but there is so little information on nightshade intolerance and I feel called to publicly post anything I discover that might help my fellow Solanaceae-sensitive sufferers.)

Not sensitive but curious?

Okay, let me give you the quick rundown:

Nightshades are members of the Solanaceae plant family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, ashwaghanda, goji berries, ground cherries, and tobacco… as well as belladonna, datura, and mandrake.

You know how belladonna is called Deadly Nightshade?

For some unlucky folks, myself included, pretty much all of the nightshades are deadly. The plants’ alkaloids act as muscular and nervous system disruptors.

What does that look like?

For me it’s vomiting migraines with tremors and extreme sensitivity to smell and light that start about 12 hours after ingestion. And if I have multiple ingestions I end up with arthritic symptoms in my ankles.

People ask me if it’s hard to give up tomatoes. One nightshade-migraine will convince you that tomatoes are a torture device developed in the Pit of Despair.

Which brings me to dinner last night and the new chef who decided to add a dash of this-and-that to a normally tomato-less soup.

You can see where this is going, right?

When our waiter, who had assured me that the soup was nightshade-free, guiltily grabbed my bowl away, I knew my night was about to go downhill.

I think I went a little catatonic at that point; as we left the restaurant a homeless woman nearly wrestled Andrew out of the way to “ask” if she could have my leftovers. And I just handed them to her without a word.

I cried on the way home from the restaurant. Sobbed. The thought of spending the next day in agony was simply overwhelming.

Andrew held my hand. Let’s try everything we know, he said.

That was last night. Today my nervous system is a bit shut-down, I’m a bit foggy. But no crazy migraine.

So I figure it’s time to share everything we know.

Everything we know is a compilation of things that I’ve cobbled together to antidote accidental nightshade ingestion. Here’s the thing: I’m not willing to purposely eat a potato in the name of science. So this cocktail has been tested slowly over the past two years.

Furthermore, I can’t tell you why this works for me or that it will work for you. I can tell you that I truly believe that if we pool our personal experiences and listen to our bodies, we can each create a cocktail that keeps us out of The Pit of Despair.

Here’s mine:

* Vitamin K
* Vitamin C
* Choline
* Homeopathic Bio-Salts
* Ibuprofen

(Yes, ibuprofen. A few years back I looked at the damage these migraines were doing to my body and decided that soldiering through was worse for me than taking ibuprofen. I usually only take one. I know it’s not a perfect answer, but for me it’s the lesser evil.

When I was in the Amazon and got a bladder infection, the shaman I was teaching with took the Cipro from me, blessed it, and handed it back. You take, he said.

So even though I know the damage ibuprofen does to the gut, I offer a thanks to the Gods of Pharmacy and swallow it down.)

My personal antidote is not all supplements:

I also need to calm my body’s early-warning system: the muscles in my neck that go into lock down and spasm pre-migraine. Last night I put a heat wrap on my neck, got into bed, and listened to a meditation CD. Twice.

When I woke up this morning, I had bypassed the actual migraine and was in the phase that I think of as the post-migraine haze.

Luckily I already had an acupuncture appointment scheduled. The needles helped. So did the reminder that for me solanine is toxic. So today I took milk thistle and licorice tincture, as well as activated charcoal caps.

I also took time to be incredibly grateful to be here, writing to you, instead of adding this day to my list of lost days.

Please add to this discussion. Tell me what works for you so that this post can become a place where we share solutions.




This is a topic near to my heart…. and my head.

About 4 years back my migraines reached a screaming crescendo.

1-3 migraines a week each lasting 6-12 hours.  Ugh.

They were completely debilitating.  Laying down made them worse so I would lean against the wall in our darkened bedroom, sometimes for hours, with my arms twitching and my nose so sensitive that the scent of dinner cooking downstairs would make me vomit.

Vomiting was actually a huge relief.  All I could look forward to, in the middle of my head hell, was puking.  After 6 or 7 heaves into the porcelain goddess, there was half a chance the pain level would hit “bearable” and I’d be able to sleep (Andrew says this language is too graphic… but the migraines were too graphic so it seems appropriate).

Really, any sane person would have lived at the E.R.  Maybe they would have given that sane person a morphine drip.

I tried everything I could think of.  On a whim one day I drank an entire pot of Uva Ursi tea.  It worked.  The headache went away…. that once.  It never worked again.  And Uva Ursi tastes horrid.

Sometimes I would put my feet into a really hot sage foot bath.  If I caught the headache early enough, that could take it from a full-blown hurricane down to a tropical storm.

Using lavender, peppermint, and nutmeg essential oils on my temple and neck also helped…. when I could tolerate the scent.

Butterbur extract helped…. a smidge.  Feverfew, not at all.

On what I thought was a side note, my ankles started to become extraordinarily stiff.  So stiff that I had to brace myself between the stairwell walls so I could make it down the steps in the morning.

In the spring of 2009, the headaches let up a bit.  I got down to once a week which was a huge relief.  But then during, the summer, they came back with a vengeance.

What was the difference between spring and summer?


I had started growing them in my garden and was eating the luscious things at almost every meal.  And the migraines were back up to crippling levels.

As an experiment, I stopped eating the tomatoes.  The headaches backed off considerably but did not completely disappear.

Thus the research began!  While I couldn’t find much in the medical literature, reading about the chemistry of plants in the Solanaceae family backed up what my body was telling me.

Here are the basics:

The Solanaceae family is also called the Nightshade family.

Its members include:

  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • eggplant
  • peppers (bell, sweet, capsicum, chili, paprika, cayenne, etc but not black pepper which is from a different plant family)
  • tobacco
  • ground cherries
  • lycium fruit (also called goji berries)
  • ashwaghanda
  • also Belladonna, Datura, and Mandrake

These foods all contain compounds that are similar to nicotine although they have different names in different plants.

Without getting too technical, these chemical components can cause a back-up of sensation in the nerve endings.  Kind of like a nervous system traffic jam.  When you remember that the nervous system runs on electrical impulses, and then you picture a nervous system traffic jam, it gets kind of ugly.

This kind of ugly can lead to headaches or migraines, arthritic symptoms, GERD, twitching muscles or muscle contractions.

Nightshades take 12-24 hours to cause these types of reactions which makes it real tough to blame the tomato.  When you get a migraine at noon, you really don’t stop to think about what you ate for dinner the night before!

But if you suffer from any of these types of Nightshade related symptoms, try a week or two being solanaceae-free and see how you feel.

For me, not eating nightshades has changed everything.  I know I can take a road trip, or get on an airplane, or go to the movies… and not end up with a migraine.

Have you suffered from eating these naughty nightshades?  Share your story by commenting below!