Bittersweet is known as bitter nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, blue nightshade, deadly nightshade, felonwort, fever twig, mortal, scarlet berry, snake berry, staff vine, violet-bloom, woody nightshade.


Bittersweet is native to northern Africa, Europe, and Asia but has spread throughout the world. It grows in moist areas, open woods, waterways, lakeshores, and along fences.


Bittersweet is a woody, herbaceous perennial vine that scrambles over other plants, capable of reaching a height of 4 m. The leaves are 4–12 cm long, roughly arrowhead-shaped. The flowers are in loose clusters of 3–20, 1–1.5 cm across, star-shaped, with five purple petals.

Part used

The bark of the roots and twigs are used for medicinal purposes. Stems are harvested in the spring or after the leaves have fallen. The root is collected in the autumn and dried for later use.

Traditional Uses and Benefits

  • Bittersweet leaves and fruits contain several alkaloids such as tomatidenol, soladulcidine, and solasodine.
  • It has been used as a traditional external remedy for skin abrasions and inflammation. It has been used to treat cancers, tumors, and warts since ancient times.
  • All parts of the plant have alterative, anodyne, depurative, mildly diuretic, emetic, expectorant, hepatic, mildly narcotic, and purgative properties.
  • Bittersweet is a highly toxic plant. It can be used as an external remedy for skin abrasions, inflammation, and chronic eczema.
  • It is also used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, bronchial congestion, heart ailments, ulcerative colitis, and jaundice.
  • A decoction of the root is used in the treatment of cancer and swelling.

Dosage and Precautions

The average daily dose as a decoction or infusion is the 1-3-gram bittersweet stem in 250 mL water.

Warning: It should be used with caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Excess dosage may paralyze the central nervous system, slows the heart and respiration, and lowers the temperature, causing vertigo, delirium, convulsions, and even death.




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