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Poisonous Plants in GB

16 17 bittersweet Solanum dulcamara Family Solanaceae. Synonyms Woody nightshade, felonwort, felonwood, poisonberry. Found in woodland and scrub, hedge banks and marshes. A perennial climber reaching ten feet, with acrid smelling foliage and small bluepurple potatolike flowers with orange stamens that form clusters of oval red berries. Less toxic than the deadly nightshade, but has caused fatalities, particularly in children who sometimes mistake the ripe berries for redcurrants. Dulce amara means sweet bitter as the plant allegedly tastes bitter at first, then very sweet. Solanum may be derived from solamen meaning to comfort perhaps linked to its effectiveness in treating leprosy. Felonwort refers to the practice of using bittersweet pounded with bacon to remove felons or whitlows on the fingers but dont try this at home as toxins can be absorbed through the skin. In shepherd lore, bittersweet protected flocks from the evil eye, and a piece of the wood was hung from the neck of sheep in danger from overlooking by witches. Dioscorides, in the 1st century AD used our herb to remove spots from the skin. Later it was used for tuberculosis, rheumatism and absence of menstruation. In 1792 Woodville commented that thirty berries killed a dog in three hours, yet later trials used six times the dose and produced no effects. Overdose paralyses the central nervous system, leading to respiratory collapse and a convulsive death. Another effect is the loss of speech, which may be the source of tales of people struck dumb by a witchs curse. Today, medical herbalists use bittersweet to treat herpes, allergies, and conditions affecting the mucous membranes, the active ingredients being dulcamarine and solanine.
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