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Solanum dulcamara
Climbing Nightshade
This magick herb is associated with Saturn and Mercury, 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 mandrake, belladonna, datura, or henbane. 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.

Solanum dulcamara berriesThis 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 evergreens. General growing info Top

 

Solanum dulcamara
Climbing Nightshade
50 seeds $3.75


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection Spells
Balancing
Heals Bitter Memories
Fae Magick
Mercury/Saturn Herb

2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission