Some science behind the scenes

Solanine and Solanidine

Solanine is a glycoalkaloid poison found in some species of the family Solanaceae.
Solanum, the nightshades, horsenettles and relatives, is a large and diverse genus of annual and perennial plants, including:

  • The potato (Solanum tuberosum)
  • Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
  • Eggplant or aubergine (Solanum melongena)
  • Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum )
  • Bittersweet  or Woody nightshade (Solanum Dulcamara)

Some of the plants in the Solanum family have the most wonderful common names, which give a good idea of their toxicity, for example, Five-minute Plant [which is presumably all you have before you conk out], "apple of Sodom”, Goat Apple, Poison Apple, "bitter-apple",  Devil's Tomato,  Sticky Nightshade, fire-and-ice,  and Devil's Fig.

It has been used as a fungicide and pesticide, solanine hydrochloride for example has been used as a commercial pesticide, but not on any large scale.  At very very  small doses it has been used as a sedative and anticonvulsant and as a treatment for asthma by the pharmaceutical companies.

Solanine poisoning is primarily displayed by gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, cardiac dysrhythmia, headache and dizziness.

The toxicity depends on dose, size of person and method of ‘use’.  If the person uses the ‘parenteral route’ meaning you rub it on your skin, on a cut in the skin, or a mucuous membrane or [heaven help us] inject it into a vein the effects are very much more toxic than ingestion – the oral route.  You will know you have ingested it because it is horribly bitter and produces a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.  But it takes a while to act often 5 or 6 hours.  The stomach hydrolises solanine into solanidine.

Loss of sensation, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils and hypothermia have also  been reported in yet more severe cases.

Solanine poisoning can cause death.

Solanine thus doesn’t ‘work’,  neither does Tomatine or Solasonine, except by poisoning and near death or dying.  Presumably this occurs shortly before your liver packs in and your skin falls off and you die.

Thus the only route is via a near death or actual death experience!

Observations

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