All about nightshades: explore the hidden hazards of your favorite food with macrobiotic nutritionist Lino Stanchich

The name "nightshades" sounds mysterious and even a bit spooky and ominous. Data gathered from noted scientists, horticulturists, medical researchers, and macrobiotic sources provides a look at the facts and fables about these popular plants, their characteristics, history, effects, and their enduring appeal to the world's appetite.

What Are Nightshades?

Tomatoes, white potatoes, red and green bell peppers, the "hot" peppers such as chili and paprika, as well as eggplant belong to the Nightshade Family, a botanical genus called Solanaceae species. This species also includes tobacco, poisonous belladonna, and the toxic plants herbane, mandrake, and jimson weeds. According to nutritional researcher, author, and Cornell University instructor, Norman F. Childers in his The Nightshades and Health, the origin of the word "nightshade" is not clear. He explains that old English writings described these plants as Nightshades because of their "evil and loving" nature of the night.

Used in shamanism, witchcraft, and even poisonous murder, nightshades have a history of both mystical danger and scientific caution. Some nightshade plants are ingredients in potent narcotic medicine and sleeping pills. It is reported that nightshades contain high levels of alkaloids which cause the bones to excrete calcium, other minerals, and trace elements from the body. Many enlightened doctors and nutritionists recommend that those suffering from arthritis symptoms eliminate nightshades. In this article, the focus will be on two of the most favorite "vegetables" in America.

The History of Tomatoes

When first introduced to Europe, tomatoes were thought to be deadly poison. Their vines and suckers are known to be poisonous to livestock. Yet, tomatoes became vastly popular throughout southern Europe, especially in Spain and Italy. Today in America they are among the most popular vegetables. Tomato ketchup and salsa are commonly used as well-loved condiments and are even considered "a vegetable serving" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The History of White Potatoes

When white potatoes, also called "Earth's Apples," made their journey from Peru to Europe, they were also thought to be poisonous. Yet, this popular tuber has become a staple throughout Europe and the United States. White potatoes contain solanine, which has been shown to cause a very toxic effect in susceptible people, contributing to arthritis, calcium depletion, and stiff joints, as well as painful wrists, ankles, and knees. In his book Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada, John Kingsbury documented that when solanine was eaten in large amounts by either humans or livestock, death was the outcome. When calcium is depleted from the body by potatoes, nervousness and sleeplessness may result because calcium is our natural tranquilizer. Solanine from potatoes accumulates in the body and the harmful effects may take years to appear in those who have sensitivity.

Why Eliminate Tomatoes and Potatoes?

According to macrobiotic theory, tomatoes and potatoes create a natural balance to meat, dairy, fats, and the excess salt found in the Standard American Diet. The chemical and energetic qualities of potatoes and tomatoes produce extreme, expansive effects which can expand and weaken the bones, joints, teeth, gums, and all body organs, especially for those who are sensitive and allergic to them.

In a study published in the Journal of the International Academy of Preventive medicine, of the 5000 arthritis sufferers who eliminated Nightshade, seventy percent reported relief from aches, pains, and disfigurement.

Why Do We Crave Nightshades So Much?

There is a reason why people crave nightshades. Potatoes and tomatoes are very high in potassium and help counter the high sodium of animal foods. Nightshades may aid in the digestion of fatty, dense proteins. Consider America's favorite meals: meat and potatoes, and pizza with cheese and tomatoes. We crave these combinations of foods because our bodies unconsciously strive to achieve balance.

Extreme foods have extreme effects. In macrobiotic terminology, potatoes and tomatoes are extremely yin and expansive. Animal protein is heavy, salty, and yang. Therefore, potatoes help balance the salt and protein of meat. Tomatoes, which are astringent and acidic, assist in the digestion and discharge of dairy products and help counterbalance the greasy query of the fatty, over salted cheese

Consider some of America's favorite meals: cheeseburger, french fried potatoes, soda, and ice cream, or steak, baked potato, coffee, and cheesecake. Each of these meals contains a high protein animal food, served with nightshades and sugar. This is a lethal combination that depletes calcium and other minerals from the bones and body. For those who are sensitive and allergic to nightshades, they can weaken the bones, joints, teeth, and all body organs. More than 50 million Americans have arthritis and more than 60% of women over age 65 have osteoporosis. Add to this statistic the epidemic quantity of Americans with back pain, knee and foot disorders, and tooth decay, which are all due, in large part, to helps prevent bone weakness. The macrobiotic diet contains whole foods that are extremely high in natural minerals and include: grains, beans, vegetables and sea vegetables, sea salt, and miso. Macrobiotic foods strengthen, maintain, and even rebuild bones. Recent theories now have begun to view arthritis as a deficiency and/or depletion of calcium in the body; a theory more in line with the macrobiotic perspective.

How Do I Know If I Am Allergic to Nightshades?

If you have pain, eliminate nightshades. Keep a daily journal and record of your bone and joint pain. Learn to prepare and eat a balanced, high mineral macrobiotic diet. In the popular book Eat Right, Live Longer, Neal Barnard, M.D., founder of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, outlines an elimination diet in which nightshades are avoided for four weeks. Dr. Sherry Rogers, M.D., tells us that the results take time. In her book Wellness Against All Odds, she states, "For many, no relief comes until the diet has been totally free of all of these (nightshades), for at least 6-12 weeks. So you can appreciate why, if someone gives them up for a couple of weeks and sees no improvement, that he could easily be convinced to abandon the diet and indulge in his favorites again, never to discover the culprit."

Further Scientific Research to "Bone Up On"

Nightshades play a major part in bone and joint strength. Researcher Winifred Conkling states in Natural Medicine for Arthritis, "Eliminating vegetables from the nightshade family can promote cartilage repair." Dr. Collin H. Dong developed arthritis after moving to America from China and adopting a typical western diet. The research in his book New Hope for the Arthritic concludes, "My dramatic recovery convinced me that rheumatic diseases are caused by chemical poisoning put into our food ... and by allergy to certain foods." If you are healing from disease or are in pain, especially in the bones and joints, such as wrists, hips, and knees, or back, teeth, or gums, avoid nightshades. If you wish to have the strongest body possible, then reduce, avoid, or eliminate nightshades.

Lino Stanchich, Macrobiotic Educator, Licensed Nutritionist, (FL), Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist, (NC), serves on the faculty of the Kushi Institute and is a member of the Kushi Institute Macrobiotic Educators Association. Mr. Stanchich, a multi-lingual educator who has established several macrobiotic learning centers in the United States, is the author of the popular book Power Eating Program, You Are How You Eat and can be reached at 828-299-8657.

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