I first noticed “Nightshade” when living in Wisconsin.
I thought the little purple roadside wildflower was cute…until David said it was toxic (being pregnant, I quickly removed my hand from the plant). However, I came to learn the Nightshade family (2,300-plus species, in fact) encompasses many common plants as well: tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco, morning glory, and potatoes to name a few.
The common characteristic among Nightshade plants is alkaloids. Alkaloid production is a natural defense system that inhibits insects from feasting on the plants.
With human consumption, it is this biochemical production which inhibits the activity of cholinesterase, a chemical necessary to break down acetylcholine in the human body. Buildup of cholinesterase-inhibiting steroids and glycoalkaloids might also contribute to stiffness and inflammation, according to the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery.
There are both lethal and non-lethal varieties of Nightshade plants.
If you have animals on your property, investigate the types of Nightshade species in your region and the best way to rid grazing areas of them. Contact your local Cooperative Extension with any questions or concerns.