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Plants have long played a role in folk medicine for cultures all over the world as homeopathic remedies. Solanum dulcamara, also called “bittersweet nightshade” or “woody nightshade,” is one plant that’s been widely used as a homeopathic therapy for different health conditions.

Traditionally, people used nightshade to treat health conditions like arthritis, influenza, and headache. Medicines made from dulcamara are derived from the stem, which is thought to contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Dulcamara belongs to the nightshade family of plants, which also includes several nutritious edible plants like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

These commonly eaten nightshades are believed to reduce inflammation, help heal psoriasis, and treat arthritis. Some people, however, are allergic to nightshades and should avoid consuming them.

Like many homeopathic treatments, dulcamara has not been well-studied by scientists. So it’s hard to say how safe and effective it is as a remedy.

However, there is some scientific evidence that homeopathic dulcamara may be safe and useful when used to treat certain skin issues, arthritis, stress, and inflammation.

Dulcamara is most often taken orally as a pill, dissolving tablet, or liquid. It can also be applied to the skin as a cream, gel, or tincture.

Here is an overview of the various conditions it is used to treat:

Dulcamara for warts, eczema, itchy skin, boils, and acne

Warts and boils are common skin conditions spread through touch by viruses and bacteria. Dulcamara has long been used as a folk remedy to shrink warts and boils, improving their appearance.Oza PM. (2016). Homeopathic management of warts.
Dulcamara. (n.d.). https://www.homeopathycenter.org/remedy/dulcamara-0

There is also evidence that dulcamara may be an effective treatment for eczema and itchy skin. Scientists in Europe recognize that dulcamara tincture may be an effective treatment of eczema, itchy skin and fungal skin conditions in adults.Community herbal monograph on solanum dulcamara L. stipites. (2013).

A major German advisory board, Commission E, has approved dulcamara for use in supportive therapy for the treatment of common warts and common eczema.Shenefelt PD. (2011). Chapter 18: Herbal treatment for dermatologic disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92761/ Woody nightshade stem: List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy). (1990). https://buecher.heilpflanzen-welt.de/BGA-Commission-E-Monographs/0378.htm However, researchers have found that some people appear to experience an adverse skin reaction to dulcamara.Calapai G, et al. (2016). Contact dermatitis as an adverse reaction to some topically used European herbal medicinal products - Part 3: Mentha × piperita - Solanum dulcamara.

Scientists have also found dulcamara to be a useful treatment for acne due to its antibacterial properties.Nasri H, et al. (2015). Medicinal plants for the treatment of acne vulgaris: A review of recent evidences.

Dulcamara for joint pain (rheumatism)

Dulcamara has been touted as a homeopathic treatment for joint pain (rheumatism), particularly when it’s associated with changes of the season. But doctors generally recommend people with joint pain remove nightshades from their diet because they may trigger pain.

While there have not been many studies investigating the effects of dulcamara on rheumatism, the little research that does exist is not promising.Fisher P, et al. (2001). A randomized controlled trial of homeopathy in rheumatoid arthritis.
Currently, doctors do not recommend dulcamara or any other type of homeopathic medicine to treat rheumatism.

Dulcamara as a sedative

In some countries, such as Iran, dulcamara is used as a homeopathic sedative.Saki K, et al. (2014). The most common native medicinal plants used for psychiatric and neurological disorders in Urmia city, northwest of Iran.
However, not much research exists on the safety and effectiveness of dulcamara as a sedative.

Dulcamara for inflammation

In folk medicine, dulcamara has been used to treat inflammation and inflammatory diseases. Scientists have found that dulcamara contains strong anti-inflammatory compounds.Tunón H, et al. (1995). Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of some Swedish medicinal plants. Inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis and PAF-induced exocytosis.
However, there has not been any research that proves dulcamara can be used to reduce inflammation in people.

In some limited research, a dulcamara-based topical medicine used in France has been found effective at reducing udder inflammation in dairy cows.Aubry E, et al. (2013). Early udder inflammation in dairy cows treated by a homeopathic medicine (Dolisovet): a prospective observational pilot study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23622264/

While many nightshades are healthy to eat, some are poisonous. These include belladonna and also dulcamara, which are both used in homeopathic medicine.

You should avoid contact with these plants if you find them in nature. Contact can irritate your skin. All parts of these plants, including the leaves and fruits, are poisonous.

Eating the plants found in nature may lead to:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • slowed heart rate
  • paralysis of the nervous system
  • death

Do not eat dulcamara plants found in nature. They are dangerous and cause life-threatening symptoms.

Though many people use dulcamara products without adverse effects, nausea and skin irritation are common side effects. Children are especially prone to gastrointestinal problems caused by dulcamara ingestion.

Homeopathic medications are called remedies. They are highly diluted — so diluted that there is little measurable medication in the remedy.

These minute amounts of a substance can cause similar symptoms to the disease or condition being treated. And those symptoms cause the body to react and heal itself. This homeopathic practice is based on the belief that “like cures like.”

The marketing of homeopathic treatments in the United States is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

How to use dulcamara depends on what you are trying to treat. The most studied uses of dulcamara involve applying it to the skin as a tincture (mixture of pure dulcamara stem in boiling water), cream, or gel. However, for other conditions, it’s offered as a pill, dissolving tablet, or liquid.

There is no established dose of dulcamara. If you are using a dulcamara product, stick to the dosage directions on its label.

Dulcamara has been used as a homeopathic treatment for many health conditions all over the world. Many continue to use it today. While more research is needed to understand dulcamara’s potential uses and safety, early research suggests this plant may be useful in treating certain skin conditions like eczema and itchy skin, but not others for which it’s touted.