Bittersweet stems

Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Alpranke; Bittersweet; Bittersweeter nightshade; bittersweet nightshade; Bittersweet Stems; Dog-wood; Dulcamara; Dulcamarae Stipites; Dulcamara stipes; Dulcamaris; Forest Nightshade; Hinschkraut; Licorice; Mouse wood; Natterholz; parsnip; Piss rocket; red dogberry; Solani dulcamarae stipites; Solanum dulcamara L; Sour Vine; Stipites Dulcamarae (Bittersüßstengel); sweet bitter; Water tendril

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Solanum dulcamara (solari = analgesic, dulcis = sweet, amarus = bitter), the so-called "bittersweet nightshade", or simply called bittersweet, forest nightshade, water tendril, wolfberry etc., is like Solanum tuberosusm (catoffel) or Solanum lycopersicum(tomato) a species of the genus Solanum from the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Solanum dulcamara is the parent plant of Stipites Dulcamarae, the official extract of this medicinal plant.

In Europe, also in North Africa and Asia native half shrub with creeping, branched base axis. The climbing or prostrate, finger-thick lignifying stem grows up to 2 m long and reaches growth heights of 30 to 200 cm. Its leaves are stalked and of different shapes, usually lancet-shaped, often heart-shaped at the base. Flowering time: June to August. The Bittersweet Nightshade flowers from June to August.

Pharmacodynamics (Effect)
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All plant parts contain steroidal alkaloids(solanine, soladulcidine, solasonine, solamarin) saponins (dulcamaretic acid, dulcamaric acid), dulcamarin (bittering agent), tanning agents, pectins.

The alkaloid content is highest in green berries, lower in leaves and stems and lowest in ripe fruits.

Field of application/use
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The bittersweet stem is a parent plant of Stipites Dulcamarae.

The drug used is the dried 2-3-year-old stem pieces (stipites), which are processed into standardized extracts (see Solanum dulcamara L below). Ingredients are: steroid alkaloid glycosides (0.1-0.4%), steroid saponins (0.2%) and bitter substances.

Systemic applications: Extracts of the plant are available as alcoholic extracts - (contains ethanol and liqueur wine) or in tablet form

Naturopathic external applications: available in ointment form (commercial product: Cefabene®); contains, in addition to extracts of Solanum dulcamara, ethanol and cetylstearyl alcohol; may sting if skin is still irritated by inflammation. A quadrant test is recommended = open exposure on affected skin!

Cosmetics. Extracts from the stems of the plant are used in cosmetic formulations under the INCI designation: Solanum dulcamara extract.

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For children, 30 to 40 unripe berries can be lethal.

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  1. Reuter J et al (2010) Which plant for which skin disease? Part 1: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, condylomas and herpes simplex. JDDG 10: 788-796