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Nightshades and Arthritis
9/28 16:27:32

Why do we fear the notorious nightshade?

Nightshades and Arthritis

With a name as cynical as “nightshade” it’s no wonder this group of plants gets a bad rap. Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family that includes nearly 3,000 species of plants. Some nightshades can be highly toxic if ingested, but many are safely eaten around the world.

Commonly eaten Nightshades
- Potato
- Tomato
- artichoke
- All varies of peppers including bell peppers, chili peppers and cayenne pepper.
- Eggplant
- Ground cherries
- Garden huckleberry
- Tobacco

Do we need to fear the non-toxic cousins in the nightshade family? If you have arthritis the answer may surprise you, but not for the reasons you may think.


We fear nightshade plants because of their uncertain effects: they have a high and diverse range of alkaloids which can be desirable and/or toxic when consumed in large amounts. Some popular alkaloids that may have an impact good or bad on arthritis are:


Nicotine is commonly found in tobacco and in lower concentrations in potato, eggplant, tomato and some varieties of peppers. Scientists conducted an experiment and found that eggplant has 100 micrograms of nicotine. One microgram of nicotine is equivalent to what a passive smoker would absorb in about three hours in a room with a minimal amount of tobacco smoke. Research has also found that tobacco can trigger inflammation and has an impact on diseases activity. There has been no research suggested that eating foods with trace amounts of nicotine is harmful.


Capsaicin is the active heat-producing component in chili peppers and has been found to help relieve joint pain. Research has found that capsaicin is a promising anti-inflammatory agent. Doctors may prescribe a cream or gel that has capsaicin in it to be used topically for arthritis pain and inflammation. If capsaicin comes into contact with any mucus membranes, include mouth, nose and eyes, it can cause severe irritation.

Are Nightshades Causing You Pain?

While some nightshades like tobacco may trigger arthritis pain, others like peppers may help ease it. Everyone reacts to food differently; nightshades may have some or no effect on your arthritis and it’s possible that only certain varieties may aggravate your symptoms. Speak with your doctor if you suspect a certain food may be a problem, and before making any changes to your diet. Your doctor may suggest avoiding nightshades for a period to see if your symptoms improve, and then adding one variety back into your diet at a time in order to find the culprit.

To learn more about how diet effects arthritis:
Foods That Fuel Joint Health
Arthritis Diet: Foods That Can Help Fight Inflammation
How a Touch of Turmeric Can Tame Arthritis Pain

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