The Truth About Nightshade Vegetables

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By skustes

Understanding Nightshades

Tomatoes, a good source of Lycopene. Spicy peppers boost your metabolism. Goji berries are a new super-food. What do these three foods have in common? They're all part of the Nightshade familiy of vegetables, along with eggplants, bell peppers, potatoes, and gooseberries.

But what exactly is a nightshade anyway? Nightshades are any plant from the family Solanaceae. We are namely interested in two genera: Capsicum and Solanum, or the pepper genus and tomato/eggplant/potato genus respectively. It should also be noted that another genus, Nicotiana (tobacco), is in the nightshade family.

Did You Say Tobacco?

Yes, I most certainly did say tobacco. Those wonderful peppers and tomatoes that you eat are from the same family as the tobacco in the cigarettes that you hopefully don't smoke. So to start things off, let's make a note that all food nightshades contain some level of nicotine, which may also explain why they are so darned addictive.

Dr. Garrett Smith wrote five articles in The Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence (Issues 33, 35, 36, 37, and 40) detailing exactly how the nightshades adversely affect human physiology.

So What Problems Do They Cause?

Tomatoes and eggplants were originally used as ornamentals rather than as food as they were considered poisonous. One of the major problems attributed to nightshades is arthritis, a disease which affects most of the population at some point in their life. In his first article, Dr. Smith went through an impressive list of animal studies showing calcinosis (the animal version of osteoarthritis) in rats, sheep, rabbits, chicks, and guinea pigs. They aren't humans, but it is multiple mammalian species undergoing the same process.

Remember the nicotine that we discussed above? Studies show that dietary nicotine can inhibit wound healing with anything above extremely small doses. That's not a good thing.

And when we look at the hot peppers, like jalapenos and habaneros, we come to another intersting point. These peppers are the only food we eat that cause us physical pain. Pain is usually interpreted as a bad thing, typically given off by the body as a warning. It also gives some insight into the rather, umm, explosive effects of peppers after their digestion. The body is moving quickly to get them out of the system.

But Capsaicin Is Healthful, Right?

That's debatable. Capsaicin appears to have some inhibitory effects on the healing process as well. Combine capsaicin from the peppers with the small dose of nicotine that comes from eating them and you can see how the healing process can be slowed. Capsaicin can actually be toxic in high doses and inhibits a part of the immune system that hunts down cancerous cells for up to 90 days! Epidemiological evidence shows that cultures that eat high amounts of peppers and tomatoes have higher incidences of cancers all throughout the digestive tract.

That's The Most Ridiculous Thing I've Heard. Of Course Those Vegetables Are Good For You

Oh? Well how about a bit of personal experience. When I first changed my eating habits for the better a few years back, I started incorporating lots of salads (still do, but that's beside the point). One to two salads per day, each with tomatoes and green peppers. Along with that, I was just learning to cook and wasn't a big fan of vegetables yet, so I was dousing them and meat with lots of hot sauce.

As you can see, I was incorporating lots of nightshades into my diet. At that level of consumption, I started getting all kinds of popping in my joints, especially in my back and even in my sternum. It wasn't painful, but that I could pop pretty much anything at will was disconcerting. At the time I had no idea about nightshades, so I just kept munching along with no idea of the cause, figuring that since there wasn't any pain, it was benign.

Later, I read some of Dr. Smith's ideas about nightshades and I decided to try cutting back. I cut out the tomatoes and peppers from my salads and cut back on the hot sauce. Would you believe that the popping in my back and sternum went away? It did.

But here's the fun part...I had shoulder surgery last June after two more dislocations. Now that I have "a bum stick," I also have a gauge of whether I've overdone it on the nightshades. Since the nightshade vegetables tend to promote joint inflammation, I can feel it acutely in my left shoulder joint, particularly when exercising, but there will also be a constant dull ache. It feels like I have small air or fluid pockets under the ball of the humerus. And one week, light exercise will irritate it if I've been overdoing the nightshades, while the next I can do max deadlifts, squats (puts the shoulder in a tight position), presses, or anything else with no intra-joint pain if I've been laying off the nightshades. That's all the proof I need.

So I Should Avoid All Nightshades?

Of course, I'm not bold enough to say that, without a doubt, nightshades are bad for everyone. However, I will say that everyone should try going a month without them to see if it has any effect on how they recover from exercise, how their arthritis feels, and how they feel in general. Then, go bananas and have a nightshade festival. Eat nightshades to your heart's content and see how you feel for the next few days. Try incorporating plenty of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and spice in your meal. I have a feeling that these foods affect everyone to some degree. I know that I can include a little with no ill effects, but need to watch overdoing it. I'm working to completely exclude them from my diet.

In the end, experimenting on yourself is really the only way to know what does and doesn't affect you. One thing the information on nightshades reinforces for me is to eat seasonally. These vegetables are only available during certain months of the year if eating seasonally, which means that you'll get a good load of nightshades at some points and none at other points of the year.

Another source of information is the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation. It's all very unfortunate since a fresh-made salsa could be one of nature's greatest gifts to man. But besides the obvious foods like tomato sauce and salsa, you also have to watch for paprika (made from dried peppers), which is in most prepared mustards, many seasoning rubs, and the seasoning mixes of pre-made sausages and bacon. It can get tough with store-bought foods. I'm not telling you what to eat and what not to, but I am saying to give it some consideration and try an elimination on yourself.

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Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing Level 4 Commenter 3 years ago

I love tomatoes, peppersand eggplants but I have spoken with a naturopath some time back who said that if you had pain in ankles, wrists etc, then it was best to avoid them. This hub reminded me of that and now I can continue my research. Thanks.

just amazed 2 years ago

Has Johnson & Johnson got you so brainwashed that you've stuck your brain in reverse?

Do you know that YOUR body along with everyone else's body has nicotine receptors in it?

Do you know that vitamin B3 comes from nicotine?

Do you know that SCURVIE is a deadly disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency?

Do you know that PELAGRA is a deadly disease caused by a vitamin B3 deficiency?

Do you know that there are and have always been, numerous HEALTHY smokers well over 100 years old?

Maybe after you've cut out all of your nightshade foods and come down with pelagra you may start to realize that you've been had.

Maybe, if you were smart you would do some HONEST, UNBIASED, research into the health benefits of nicotine. There are many as you will find out if you do do some HONEST, UNBIASED research.

IF you believe the bible, GOD put EVERY plant on the earth for the use of mankind, read [ genesis 1: 12 and 1: 29-31] and NOWHERE does it say " with the exception of tobacco or nicotine containing plants"

Remember too as you're lapping up BIG PHARMAS hogwash, that big pharma brings in close to 500 million U.S. dollars on the sales of THEIR nicotine products, every year.

Remember too that those are the same outfits that kill over 100,000 americans every year with their medications, and admitted as so by the AMA.

skustes profile image

skustes Hub Author 2 years ago

Just Amazed, perhaps you'd care to enlighten me as to the health benefits of nicotine cause from what I've found it detracts from the body's ability to recover from damage.

And trust that I have no faith in Big Pharma, so nice attempt at an ad hominem attack, but you fail.



Irina 2 years ago

Very interesting. Found your site by reading about the blood type diet that mentioned "nightshades." The site said: "The nightshade vegetables can cause lectin deposit in the tissue surrounding the joints."

Thanks for the info.

Jacqueline 2 years ago

How or why did nightshade vegetables get that name?

skustes profile image

skustes Hub Author 2 years ago

Irina, there definitely seems to be something to it! Lots of people I know have significantly less joint pain after dropping the nightshades.

Jacqueline, I've heard two theories. From Wikipedia: "Most likely, the name comes from the perceived resemblance that some of the flowers bear to the sun and its rays, and in fact a species of Solanum (Solanum nigrum) is known as the sunberry."

From "prob. with allusion to the poisonous or narcotic properties of the berries."



Teksin 2 years ago

I was having terrible joint pains. After I eliminated nightshades, as much as I can, and adding Kefir in my diet, I am completely healed. I still grow fresh tomatoes, peppers in my garden, I love them, they are so delicious, but as soon as I eat, even a little bit, I pay the price with pain, stabbing, burning in my joints after a couple of hours.

skustes profile image

skustes Hub Author 2 years ago

Teksin, I also eat some tomatoes and peppers around this time of year when they're prevalent. I try not to overdo it and it doesn't seem to affect me as bad as it does you. It's unfortunate they are so good!



Kat 2 years ago

If tomatoes are so bad, why are you telling us to grow them so that we know where they are coming from? If they are so bad for us, it dose not matter where they are grown. Am I missing something?

Jerome 2 years ago

I appreciate all the information on the nightshade family and vegetables. From within I Am prompted to stop eating tomatoes but to stick to a raw food 100% organic lifestile particularly high in chlorophyll because it is so blood building and filled with LIGHT......As much as much as some individuals might like to consume vegetables from the nighyshade families, I have learned to leave them alone.

Anita 2 years ago

Very good post, I would like to point out however that only the cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) family Solanaceae is a nightshade. The common Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) family Grossulariaceae, is not and does not contain solanine. The Sweet potato(Ipomoea batatas) family Convolvulaceae is also not a nightshade. The common or "Irish" potato (Solanum tuberosum) family Solanaceae is. And that common potato is what makes me violently ill. It not only causes swelling in my joints but in my whole digestive system. After years of misdiagnosis I discovered completely by accident that it was potatoes that were making me sick. They were the first to go and I felt so much better. But something was still bothering me. So I did some research and found out about all the nightshade vegetables. I have since cut them all out of my diet and my joints feel fine and my skin rashes have gone. The biggest problem I have now is hidden nightshades. They don't have to be listed individually on labels if they are "spices", and quite frequently "modified food starch" is potato starch. Just the potato flour used to feed sour dough yeasts can set me off, and I will feel awful for days.

skustes profile image

skustes Hub Author 2 years ago

Hey Anita!

Thanks for the testimonial there. I didn't know that about gooseberries. So it seems that the common Gooseberry isn't really a gooseberry, kinda like the sweet potato isn't really a potato (it's from the marigold family for those wondering).

I occasionally eat some nightshades with no ill effects, but if I go hogwild on them, I notice it, mainly in my shoulder which has some arthritis from 7 dislocations and a surgery.

I know what you mean about hidden nightshades. I'm always suspect of "spices". And I didn't know that about "modified food starch" either. I presumed it was a wheat product.



Much Better for 10 Years 23 months ago

10 years ago a Dr. told be that nightshades could be bad for my joints. After four days of not eating any, my joint pain went away. I understand that there are a lot of things that can cause joint problems, but if you have joint pain, it is worth a try.

P.S. Dairy has the same result on some people too.

Jay 21 months ago

Tomato is supposed to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and there are a lot of old smokers (I am a non-smoker) it has lots of negatives particularly when combined with diabetes but (it's only a theory I just made up) maybe the increased heart rate counts as exercise. Im definately going to cut down on the nightshades as they don't seem to do me much good. However, as my grandma would say "everything in moderation" and she is 81 and looks about 60, but doesn'd smoke.

Anita 20 months ago

If you are eating tomatoes for the lycopene (for prostate health) switch to red fleshed watermelon. It has lots more lycopene than tomatoes and it is more bio-available. Tomatoes need to be cooked to get the most lycopene from them but watermelon will give you Lycopene when eaten raw. Watermelons have no solanine or nicotine. Actually most red colored fruits contain some lycopene.

Melissa 20 months ago

Cooking foods in the nightshade family lowers there alkaloid content, thereby reducing the risk they pose to those who are sensitive to them.

anita 20 months ago

I recently found out that although blueberries, huckleberries , okra and artichokes are not nightshades they do contain some solanine. I don't eat these very often but if you do and have a flair up it could be the solanine.

Helen Cohen 20 months ago

Hi. I'm a holistic health counselor and I have done my share of research on nightshade vegetables and the macrobiotic diet. That said, I have also studied more than 100 dietary theories and I do believe that over doing it with extremes is not healthy. Homeopathic doses of all natural foods will only prove beneficial to your health! In many countries around the world people would slow cook their nightshades at very low temperatures for long periods of time and that would keep the vitamins intact while making the fruits easier on the body. Nightshades have something called oxalic acid that depletes the calcium in your body. If you are doing macrobiotics then you know the meaning of yin and yang. Dairy has to much calcium and if tomatoes take it away, why not have them together? Many Italian dishes are prepared with the combo. Not a fan of dairy products myself for many reasons but the point is that if you learn how to create a balanced environment in your body then you don't need to avoid the foods you love.

To your Health!

Helen Cohen

Elsevier  18 months ago

Any updates to this article? Many interesting claims, no publication references and science is inconclusive. What's more, right after the article, there are numerous potatoe highlighted recipes...

Belle 18 months ago

For years with skin problems that were labeled with names like "eczema" and "acne". After years in the health field (earned a Master's degree in Nutrition and a Holistic Therapy diploma), I finally discovered my problem - nightshades. I, like many who avoid nightshades, do not suffer from any joint reactions. My reaction has always been related to inflammatory skin problems and to some extent, depression lasting for days after eating any nightshades. This problem took so many years to uncover as my reactions were always delayed, appearing up to three days after consuming nightshades. For me, there are no "okay" amounts or preparations (cooked vs. raw) - it's simple - if I eat nightshades I react to them. The outright avoidance of nightshades may seem like an extreme measure to some, but it's a reality for certain individuals. There are degrees of sensitivity and in the absence of any reliable testing, no one can tell you the degree of your sensitivity. If you, like me, react strongly and consistently to nightshades you too may need to avoid them outright!

Apache 15 months ago

@ just amazed: B3 comes from nicotinic acid, not nicotine. Pallegra is seen in populations where corn is the staple food because it has very little nicotinic acid. There are many other foods that you can obtain B3(niacin) from.

I just discovered that potatoes where causing my lower abdomen to swell. Now I know why.

Jennifer 14 months ago

Modified food starch is MSG and can be made from a variety of different foods. It's best to avoid it:)

Naturenut 14 months ago

Thanks for the article, I completely agree. Like Belle, I narrowed down my eczema and depression episodes to nightshades. If I eat any of them for a couple days in a row, my skin reacts horribly. I also wake up with backaches and joint paints like in my ankles, legs or arms. I doubt any conventional test will figure this out for anyone; you have to listen to your own body even when people think it's ridiculous. From what I've read, some people aren't sensitive enough to react but others like us are.

Btw, justamazed is amazingly ignorant!!! Are we supposed to eat poison ivy too?

Abbie 14 months ago

Everything has it's ups and downs. Deal with it.

Thanks for the information (all of you) :]

Linda 13 months ago

I had a hole in my finger joint down to the bone for a whole year. It healed up two months after giving up spaghetti sauce. I was also able to control my high blood pressure without medicine after giving up spaghetti sauce. I really miss it, but I have no choice. I tried eating it just once after 6 months of not eating it and i had a very bad reaction to it.

tex 13 months ago


Bill 13 months ago

Blending beets and carrot juice with some of your favorite Italian herbs [like oregano and basil] makes a pretty good substitute for tomatoe sauce.

Laura 12 months ago

Oh, sigh. I have a wonderful nightshade garden - fabulous tomato plants, prolific eggplants, potato plants just coming into their own. This afternoon I prepared the most delicious eggplant parmesan with a homemade basil/tomato/garlic sauce, with a side dish of sliced potatoes and onions. It was really good. Now I'll be paying attention to my joints. Fascinating.

Melanie 12 months ago

Lots of interesting thoughts here. I have a scientific mind and I am the kind of person who craves solid facts, provable research, double-blind studies, etc. So I must embarrassingly admit that--for me--even though there is no rock-hard evidence for or against nightshades, since I quit them three weeks ago, the difference in pain in my hip joints is like night and day. I can HARDLY believe it. In fact, I tried this nightshade avoidance diet to "prove" to myself once and for all that it was foolishness. Imagine my chagrin when I found out that it was true--at least for me.

The way I see it, you've got nothing to lose (well, except for some yummy-tasting foods) by trying it out. Give it two or three solid MONTHS of strict avoidance of all nightshades. If it works for you, kick your heels up and enjoy your pain-free, rash-free life. If not, go out and binge on pizza, salsa, and spaghetti and enjoy the delicious flavors once again. Either way, it's a win-win situation, and at least you can say you tried and you know for certain what does or doesn't work for you.

Anne Hoelz 12 months ago

Nightshade foods were 100% the cause of my son's benign myoclonic seizures. Eliminated the nightshades, no more seizures! He also has Down Syndrome, and when we eliminated the nightshade foods for his seizures, his cognitive & motor development took off! There IS a connection between nightshades and the developmental delays in Down Syndrome. It has to do with the glycoalkaloids in nightshades inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, which is required for the systhesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine . . . which individuals with Down Syndrome already have in short supply. Just try eliminating them . . . it's free and can't hurt you!

Mike 12 months ago

Noticed that you do not site one scientific trial other than an oblique reference to rodent studies. What studies? What Universities? Are these peer-reviewed papers? Are they published in established journals?

It bugs me to read such sloppy work. Back it up or pack it up.

Adams 10 months ago

I agree with many comments here that this information is wholly inaccurate and is a disservice to people who might otherwise believe it. It is an example of how to twist a few facts to fit a particular agenda. This article should not be so titled. It should be titled "A Bit of Nonsense About Nightshades."

Please do everyone a favor and take this inaccurate article down.

Jack 10 months ago

I have seen one refrence that rutabagas are night shades.

However, I can't find any other references and it is not

generally listed as a night shade vegetable.

Is it or isn't it?

Anita 9 months ago

Rutabaga is a brassica not a nightshade

Otto 9 months ago

Neither are gooseberries in the nightshade family. They are in the genus Ribes and are related to currants.

glorjc 9 months ago

To: Mike and Adam

The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) has in their possession the CURE for cancer. The protocol was developed by a Scientist at Loyola University in Chicago. All the documentation and facts in the world were supplied to them and do you see a cure for Cancer? I am a 22 year survivor of Dukes Stage 3 colon Cancer, thanks to this protocol. No chemo, no radiation , no pills. So why can't I get people to listen to me? Greed and Money and people like you who dictate something isn't for everyone if I had listen to you - I wouldn't be here. That's why I chose to pick my own cancer treatment, so let people who have nightshade reactions listen to their own bodies - not yours. Listen to your own body and what it wants and need before you tell me what I want or need.

Cindy 8 months ago

Couldn't have said it better myself glorjc.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, which took years to diagnose because the doctors kept telling me I was too young for any arthritis. After being diagnosed, before any "treatment", I got on the internet to do some research. I read about all the different medications and the side effects of them are scary. Sudden death is actually listed as a side effect of a couple of the medicines. With that being said, drugs are not an option in my mind.

I found several articles on changing diet for rheumatoid arthritis and stumbled across nightshades, this article included. I have since cut out a few things from my diet, to include nightshades, dairy and red meat. These seem to be the most common things I found actual rheumatoid arthritis sufferers saying to cut out.

So, I tried it, and I have NO joint pain at all if I avoid them like the plague. I know right away if I missed something on a label, within minutes actually.

I could barely walk when I decided to radically change my diet 4 months ago, now I am back to training for a marathon and haven't taken a single medication.

I do not need a scientific study to tell me that changing my diet is keeping me from the severe pain of the arthritis, my lack of pain is proof enough for me.

And changing my diet has no horrifying side affects like "sudden death" or "anal leakage".

Garnae' 8 months ago

The reason some people have untoward effects from some vegetables and others don't is that they have different blood types. Your blood type was evolved to use certain, not all, foods. Peter D'Adamo has written many books on this subject, some are recent. I am a nurse and have endorsed Peter D'Adamo's theory for over ten years. It is not completely failproof but it certainly explains a lot.

Garnae' 8 months ago

The reason that some people have untoward effects from some foods it that each of our blood types were evolved to benefit from some, not all, foods.

Debby 7 months ago

There are many studies about nightshades, this link is one of them, why should the author go to the trouble of re-inventing the wheel? Maybe a couple of referneces may have helped.

KERB profile image

KERB 7 months ago

Thank you for writing this. I have had FMS (fibromyalgia) for 18 years, and cutting out the Nightshade Vegies (or, reducing them) has allowed me to feel good enough to not be on my medications for the past 18 months. I am glad to see that what I did for myself, is what other's like you are doing for yourself. Our family is eating healthier, slowly, our next reduction is the beef... take care and thanks again! Enjoyed this hub.

MrsPeanut 6 months ago

I have Eckbom syndrome ( RLS ) and eliminating nightshade has been WONDERFUL. I can not tell you in any words how horrid my nights were and car rides and sitting for any amount of time etc etc etc> It was hell. Now I have two meds and NO nightshades and am doing very well, thank you!

Ella 4 months ago

Thank you for this wonderful article! I suffered from depression and brain fog for years that were debilitating. After a year of elimination diets I put it together, anything with solanine! That's the nightshades plus strawberries, blueberries, gogiberries. I wish I had discovered this years ago/

Mike 3 months ago

Nightshades are the bane of my existence. It took me 40 years to figure out that the major depression, as well as all the aches and pains in my joints, were all caused by eating this shit. Yes, I said shit because that is what it is. Having these poisonous plants incorporated into our food chain have robbed me of many good years.

Jan 2 months ago

I am new to the "no nightshades diet", its been only about 3 weeks since I found out after I made a bunch of mashed potatoes out of old potato's and we ate them for for 4 days. I was in awful pain and almost went back to my RA doctor to get back on my fibro meds, I had discontinued in October of 2010 even tho I still had bad fibro bouts I had nothing as bad as this since stopping my meds. I decided to research pain and potato's because I knew that was the only thing I had ate different. Now I just want to cry, when I think of how this might change my life, I really do think it is the answer to what has been setting my swelling and pain off. I feel much better than I have in 5 to 6 years..... so far so good.

Rhonda 2 months ago

According to an article in WebMD the Nightshade Vegetable theories are just that "theories".... and the black helecoptors really do exist. ;)

Nina Roffey 39 hours ago

I stopped eating nightshades 18 months ago after a herbalist colleague tested me intolerant to them. After a year I no longer needed to use asthma inhalers which I'd had to use for over thirty years. I also found that migraine attacks reduced to one to three per year and that dairy products no longer worsened asthma and acne. One man's meat is another man's poison, therefore we cannot make sweeping statements and cast off one type of food. We just need to find out what effects us individually.

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