This magick herb is
associated with Saturn
since it is considered balancing. It is protective
(especially when hung in a secret place to protect the home), heals
from bitter memories, and helps in Fae magick. Recently,
someone asked me about including this herb in a flying ointment. There
is no reason to do so. It doesn't contain the same sort of alkaloids as
Instead, the unripe fruits contain the same alkaloid that is found in
the green parts of potato skin, sprouted potatoes, and the
leaves of the tomato plant: solanine. Always cut off the green parts of
potatoes before cooking and don't eat sprouted potatoes;
people have actually been hospitalized after eating them. The most
common effects of ingesting solanine are nausea, vomiting, headache,
and diarrhea that can last 3-6 days. The flowers contain
solasodine, which has been used in creams to treat skin cancer lesions.
The root contains beta-solamarine, another anti-skin-cancer chemical. I
think anyone can see that this plant does not have a place in flying
ointments. Its alkaloids are not psychoactive. It has had a small role
in folk herbalism to treat skin eruptions, but that does not mean it
should be thrown into a witchcraft ointment. My approach with herbs is
don't use anything you don't have a need to use. More is not better.
Less is better--less, and appropriate, and least harm. I have not found
any historical evidence that this herb was incorporated into flying
ointments either. In my opinion, this is a beautiful plant that is
worth growing if for no other reason than to grow a fairly innocuous
member of the nightshade family. I personally also love the contrast
between the purple flowers and the red berries, which generally are on
the plant at the same time.
This perennial climber likes watery places, such as
riverbanks, and borders, like the edge of the woods or fences.
It can get up to 12 feet long and flowers through summer.
The berries are poisonous when unripe (green), but only
mildly poisonous when ripe (red). That said, they smell funny and have
a snotty texture, so I have never tried them myself. This herb is
nowhere near as dangerous as deadly nightshade, but children should
never eat these berries at any stage, because they are more sensitive
to alkaloids. Birds find the berries tasty, though, and perhaps that's
why this herb is also considered an Air
plant. The Delaware, Iroquois, Micmac, and Nootka Indians
used bittersweet as a poultice to treat arthritis (interesting
considering that nightshades are often thought to aggravate this
condition), skin ailments, digestive complaints, and tumors. Juice from
the crushed twigs was used externally to treat bruises and skin
diseases. In Eclectic medicine, the root was made into a
poultice for illness that manifested itself on the skin.
Bittersweet has been cultivated since the mid 1500s, mostly
because of its dapper looks. It is also known as Climbing Nightshade,
Bittersweet, Woody Nightshade, Felonwood, Felonwort, Scarlet Berry, and
Violet Bloom. I harvest these seeds right here in upstate New York. Top.
How to grow: I have found this plant to be very easy to grow.
You can stratify or not. If you stratify these seeds, soak in
cold water you change daily for fresh cold water for two weeks. Then
sow in Jiffy 7 as usual. Otherwise, just sow them under normal
conditions where the temperature fluctuates between day and night, and
they will sprout within 21 days. Grow in sun or partial shade
in good soil. They like something to clamber over, although they do not
have tendrils, so you have to kind of help them. I have them growing
through my yew bushes in front of my house and through the raspberries
in the back yard. They will climb up shrubs without smothering them.
Their red berries and purple flowers look nice poking out of small
growing info Top
50 seeds $3.75
in Witchcraft & Magic:
Heals Bitter Memories
2004, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission