(Solanum nigrum) In some parts of Europe, the leaves used to be put in babies' cradles, the idea being that they would soothe them to sleep (Grieve. 1931). There may be some justification for this, for the generic name, Solanum, comes from a word meaning 'to soothe' (Young). Some South American Indian peoples use this plant for insomnia, by steeping a small quantity of the leaves in a large amount of water (Weiner).
The main folk medicinal use is for skin complaints, an ancient practice. "Dioscorides writeth, that Nightshade is good against S Anthonies fire, the shingles, ." Gerard wrote, while still warning his readers of the dangers of using such a toxic plant. We find this use against erysipelas, for that is what St Anthony's fire is, in America, too. In Mexico, for instance, the Totonac grind the whole plant, add salt and lime juice to it, and apply it as a plaster (Kelly & Palerm). In South Africa, too, a paste made of the unripe berries is in general use as an application to ringworm (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk). Sunburn is treated in Indiana by crushing the leaves and stirring them in a cup of cream. When ready, put the cream on the sunburned area (Tyler).
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