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The Link Between Nightshades, Chronic Pain and Inflammation

Nightshade Vegetables - Nightshades, Chronic Pain and Inflammation

Nightshade Vegetables


Few people are familiar with the term nightshade vegetables, and many will be surprised to learn that consuming foods from this plant group may be contributing to their pain and inflammation. Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family which includes over 2,000 species.  They also include some of the most popular foods consumed today; such as tomatoes, potatoes, all types of peppers, and eggplant.  Although not truly nightshades, blueberries, huckleberries, goji berries and ashwaganda all share the same inflammation-inducing alkaloids.

The Solanaceae family contains cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroid alkaloids including, among others, solanine in potato and eggplant, tomatine in tomato, nicotine in tobacco, and capsaicin in garden peppers. The glycoalkaloids in potatoes are known to contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and negatively affect intestinal permeability. (1,2)  According to Dr. Marvin Childers, "When these inhibitors accumulate in the body, alone or with other cholinesterase inhibitors such as caffeine or food impurities containing systemic cholinesterase inhibiting pesticides, the result may be a paralytic-like muscle spasm, aches, pains, tenderness, inflammation, and stiff body movements."  (3) These symptoms may dissipate in a few hours or days if ingestion is stopped, based on the sensitivity of the individual, the amount of nightshades consumed on a regular basis and their level of inflammation. However for some heavy consumers of nightshades the process of inflammation and pain reduction can take up to 3 months.

After reading the symptoms associated with nightshade consumption, it is easy to understand why one of the major problems attributed to nightshade is arthritis. Arthritis is also the most common disability in the U.S. (4,5)  Statistics from a 2007-2009 study show that doctor diagnosed arthritis affects 49.9 million people in the United States alone (6).  Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis affecting more than 20 million people. More than 2 million people are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, the most disabling and painful form of arthritis. Arthritis has no boundaries to gender, race or age, it affects young and old alike. (5, 7) In fact it may be surprising to some that an estimated 294,000 children (age 18 and under), have some form of arthritis. (7) In 2003 the medical cost of arthritis alone was approximately 128 billion annually. (4) Since 1994, disability-related costs for medical care and lost productivity have exceeded an estimated $300 billion annually in the United States, this includes arthritis and other rheumatoid related illness (8) Add to these numbers the report released in 2011 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, where an estimated 116 million adults live with chronic pain, which costs the United States $635 billion annually in health care and lost productivity. (9) So the question is how much of these problems are nightshade related? That is the question some researchers are asking, as they believe that arthritis is often misdiagnosed in people who may in fact be experiencing severe side effects of nightshade consumption.

Many  who  suffer with arthritis or an arthritis related disease such as lupus, rheumatism, and other musculoskeletal pain disorders, have found that consuming foods from the nightshade family is in fact adversely affecting their health. Norman F. Childers, PhD, founder of the Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation stated: "Diet appears to be a factor in the etiology of arthritis based on surveys of over 1400 volunteers during a 20-year period. Plants in the drug family, Solanaceae (nightshades) are an important causative factor in arthritis in sensitive people." (3)

Three month challenge

If you want to know if nightshades negatively affect you, take the three month challenge. Avoid all nightshades for three months. (It's called a challenge for a reason).Be careful to note the  nightshade list, and become a label reader as some homeopathics, prescriptions, over the counter medications as well as numerous processed foods contain nightshades. Prescriptions and over the counter medicines may require a discussion with your pharmacist or a phone call to the manufacturer of your over the counter medicines to determine ingredients.

After three months, begin to reintroduce one nightshade at a time. Take note of any aches, pains, stiffness, and loss of energy, headaches, respiratory problems or any other symptoms. You may find as many others have, that the quality of your daily health will dramatically improve after eliminating nightshades from your diet.

The nightshade list

  • ­ tomatoes (all varieties, including tomatillos)
  • ­ potatoes (all varieties, NOT sweet potatoes or yams)
  • ­ eggplant (aubergine)
  • ­ okra                                                      
  • ­ peppers (all varieties such as bell pepper, wax pepper, green & red peppers, chili peppers, cayenne, paprika, etc.)
  • ­ goji berries
  • ­ tomarillos (a plum-like fruit from Peru)
  • ­ sorrel
  • ­ garden huckleberry & blueberries (contain the alkaloids that induce inflammation)
  • ­ gooseberries
  • ­ ground cherries
  • ­ pepino Melon
  • ­ the homeopathic "Belladonna"   [note: this is highly precautionary as homeopathics contain virtually no measurable "active" chemical]                                                          
  • ­ tobacco
  • ­ paprika
  • ­ cayenne pepper

Soy sauce made in the U.S. is generally made with genetically modified (GMO) soy beans, which are cut with the nightshade plant Petunia.

The condiments black/white pepper and pepper corns are not nightshades

Other ingredients and products to avoid

  • ­Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna [note: this is highly precautionary as homeopathics contain virtually no measurable "active" chemical]      
  • ­Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing medications)
  • ­Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil's trumpets
  • ­Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills
  • ­Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper).
  • ­Many baking powders contain potato starch
  • ­Don't lick envelopes, many adhesives contain potato starch
  • ­Vodka (potatoes used in production)

Read labels carefully because you could be doing everything else right, and still be sabotaged by one small amount of an ingredient.

Never buy a food has that uses the generic term of seasoning or spices.... nightshades may be included in the ingredients.


  1. Potato glycoalkaloids adversely affect intestinal permeability and aggravate inflammatory bowel disease.
  2. Naturally occurring glycoalkaloids in potatoes aggravate intestinal inflammation in two mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease.   
  3. Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231.An Apparent Relation of Nightshades (Solanaceae) to Arthritis
  4. National and State Medical Expenditures and Lost Earnings Attributable to Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Conditions --- United States, 2003
  5. Differences in the Prevalence and Impact of Arthritis Among Racial/Ethnic Groups in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2002, 2003, and 2006   
  6. Prevalence of Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitation - United States, 2007-2009   
  7. Prevalence of and annual ambulatory health care visits for pediatric arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions in the United States in 2001-2004. Sacks JJ, Helmick CG, Luo YH, Ilowite NT, Bowyer S.
  8. Prevalence and Most Common Causes of Disability Among Adults --- United States, 2005   
  9. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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I am confused.  I have read a lot of stuff many places that claim medical studies have found blueberries to be anti-inflammatory.  Yet you are saying the opposite.  How do I know which is true?


My  question is how do  you feel when you eat blueberries? If you  don't notice any pain,  soreness, or stiffness I'd assume they are not an issue for you.

There are numerous health benefits to consuming blueberries.  But if you have a pre-existing condition with inflammation you may  find that the high level of oxalates in  blueberries can  aggravate it. I  personally cannot eat blueberries in any  amount, as they cause severe stiffness in my  knees, within an hour of consumption. 

 Most of the people I  work with are severely compromised, and highly sensitive.  All have noticed significant improvements after completing the 90 day challenge. Some were later able to incorporate these foods in small  amounts. 

To read more about blueberries:

Can we compare their harm ? Tea may be harmful too...

Can we compare how harmful those in the list can be with their alkaloids ?

For example I used to have joint pain but since not using solanaceae plants except little ashwagandha and not drinking black/green/white tea I have no joint pain at all.

I also found black/green/white tea cause me joint pain.

Could oxalates be a factor?

Most of the foods on this list are also high in oxlates. Oxalates have been indicated as a possible cause or contributing factor in firbromyalgia. (A few of them are not on my oxalate food list so I didn't say all.)



Based on all the 'scientific' research that I have accumulated over the last fifty years, there is absolutely nothing left for a human being to eat that has not been proven harmful, including drinking water and breathing air. In order to maintain some form of bodily function, one is left to rely on intelligence, intuition and moderation as their guide.


You mention ashwagandha in this article. I'm confused if you are referring to this as also posing a problem although it is not truly in the nightshade family?


Ashwagandha is in the nightshade family, surprisingly it is related to the common tomato. You can read more at

For some individuals nightshades are not an issue, but for those who are sensitive, even small amounts can trigger painful episodes.


I've done some pretty extensive research on ashwagandha and never read anything about it causing any inflammation within the body. There are different ways of using the "weed" and the root is mostly used. I could see this being an issue if the berries or leaf (which has not been found as useful) was used. It has been found to be safe and nontoxic. It has also been used for arthritic pain. I also give this to my dog for his joints and also for some lumps he has on his chest (some vets will recommend this as an alternative to drugs). I was mostly researching it to be a potential treatment/prevention for Alzheimer's disease. This is why I'm confused on how this may trigger a painful episode.


I've done research on ashwagandha in my field of research and it has been used for arthritis pain and also an adaptogen. I've only heard good things about ashwagandha if you use it in the correct manner. There has been no toxicity related to using the roots. This is why this claim is confusing me.

Norman Childers PhD

Dr. Norman Childers, a professor of horticulture at Cook College in New Jersey who has worked with solanaceous plants all his life, reported that regular consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants is a primary cause of arthritis. He noted that in arthritic patients symptoms of this potentially crippling disease go away usually in a period of several weeks to several months when they stop eating these foods.  He cured his own arthritis and is still alive at almost 95 years old.


The artichoke is not a nightshade.  It is not a member of the Solanaceae family, but rather the Asteraceae or composite family. 



You are correct artichokes are not in the nightshade family, they do  however contain solanine, which is why they are included in the list of foods to avoid, as solanine is known to trigger inflammatory responses in sensitive individuals.


I set loved the article on nightshades, however, im wondering if the mention of homeopathy is accurate since it doesn't meet Avagrados number, meaning dilution is beyound 24x, it seems taking belladonna would stimulate my body to heal itself ? 


For most individuals taking a homeopathic dose of Belladonna may not cause them problems. But for those who are trying to figure out the cause of their pain, it is best to eliminate any potential triggers for 3 months, and then gradually add  foods,homeopathics etc. back one at a time to note any physical  changes.

I can  say,  that individuals I work with who are highly sensitive to nightshades can not  tolerate the homeopathic Belladonna in any dose, without a painful episode occurring.

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