American Nightshade Magical Properties & Secrets
No other herb in history is steeped in the macabre like the deadly nightshade plant, aka Bella donna. But deadly nightshade isn’t the only plant in the nightshade family. Did you know potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers are all a part of the nightshade plant family? So is American nightshade. In North America, the American nightshade plant is found growing wild all over the continent. And, while it is classified as poisonous, there is much more to the story than one might expect. Learn the American nightshade plant’s magical properties and its secrets here. For Members Only.
American Nightshade Profile
- Name: American black nightshade
- Species: Solanum americanum
- Family: Solanaceae
- Location: subtropics of U.S.; Caribbean Islands; Canada
- Toxicity: unripened berries have caused death in animals & humans
American nightshade, Solanum americanum, is a wild-growing herbaceous plant found in North America. It is in the same family as deadly nightshade but is not the same species. Its leaves are oval and broad and vary in size up to ten centimeters long. The plant itself grows up to six feet tall. When American nightshade flowers, the blooms are small, star-shaped (5 petals) white to light purple blooms with a yellow stamen. The American nightshade’s berries are small and clustered on one stem. When they’re unripe, they are bright shiny green. When ripened, the berries are black.
American nightshade is also called glossy nightshade and American black nightshade and is dispersed throughout the tropics and subtropics of North America. It is native to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and most southern states in the U.S. and it has been introduced to places in Canada, as well.
Watch the video below to see a real American nightshade plant growing wild in my yard!
A Brief WARNING!
While I chose to reveal this information to you, it does NOT mean I encourage you to come in direct contact with the American nightshade (or any poisonous) plant. The American nightshade’s green berries are POISONOUS and have been known to cause death in animals, small children, and one adult who have eaten them. There are also claims the leaves and roots are poisonous if ingested or absorbed into breaks in the skin. If you do decide to forage or grow this potentially toxic herb, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. No pets or children should have any contact with this plant as it could cause sickness and death. Always use thick gloves when handling plants of potential toxicity.
American Nightshade Edible Secrets
With the scary stuff out of the way, some herbalists claim the ripened black berries of the American nightshade are edible, including Green Dean who hosts foraging for wild edible tours throughout the southeast United States. To read his article on American nightshade, click here. Green Dean claims he has eaten the black berries, starting with a quarter of a berry one day, half a berry the next, and working his way up to a whole berries or two at a time. HOWEVER, he states he has not eaten a cup of berries or baked a pie as other individuals have claimed.
Here’s my little secret – I’ve tasted a ripe American nightshade berry. I say tasted because as soon as I had chewed up the flesh, I completely chickened out and spit it out! I didn’t swallow it. I was afraid of the toxicity warnings. For the record, I had no after-effects from simply tasting and spitting out one ripe berry. However, I don’t think I’m as brave as Green Dean to consume the berries any time soon. Nor do I recommend you eat them, either.
American Nightshade: Plant Familiar
When I first came in contact with American nightshade, it was growing in my backyard (as seen in the video above). The funny thing was – I had wished for a few weeks to have belladonna grow in my garden. Well, I didn’t get belladonna but I did get its cousin American nightshade! Surprisingly, I found it growing up from underneath the foundation of the house. It’s black berries and white-star flowers were unmistakable as nightshade. I was ecstatic! Unfortunately, we had to cut it down for fear our toddler would get curious and eat the berries. Not two weeks after that, it grew back!
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You see, when a plant wants to be a guide or familiar of yours, it will continually show up. You’ll take notice of this because it will be a plant you’ve always wanted to find OR it will be a plant that doesn’t normally grow in your yard or path. Then you’ll see it growing everywhere! Following the American nightshade growing in my garden, I dreamed of making a nightshade berry pie, and I began seeing it at a local park…growing all over the place. I ended up harvesting some of it (carefully with gloves), drying it out, and then bottling it in a glass vial to be worn as an amulet. When I want to cross the hedge, I wear the amulet and the American nightshade lends its otherworldly abilities to my magic.
American Nightshade Folklore & Magic
In ancient times, belladonna was used to dilate women’s pupils to enhance beauty. In fact, eye doctors use it to dilate your pupils in modern times. Belladonna, and other nightshade plants, have long been associated with poisonings and death. Legend has it that Locusta killed the emperor Claudius using belladonna given to him by Agrippina the Younger.
To witches in Medieval times, belladonna was used as an ingredient in flying ointments. Flying ointments were oils and salves anointed on the body or absorbed into the mucus membranes in order to give the witch or magician a “high” or produce hallucinations and visions. This is what some people believe gave us the image of the witch flying on a broomstick = witches “flying high”. Some professional herbalists, like Sarah Anne Lawless, still infuse salves and ointments with atropa belladonna for medicinal purposes. I have never used belladonna in ointments, nor do I plan to; however, I have used belladonna as a means of crossing the hedge.
Because American nightshade is close in relation to deadly nightshade (belladonna), we can assume it takes on much of the same magical properties with slight variations. American nightshade’s magical properties include: hedgecrossing, beauty, psychic visions, astral projection, necromancy, levitation, contact with chthonic deities. American nightshade is associated with the same deities as belladonna including: Bellona, Circe, Medea, and Hecate.
How to use American nightshade in magic (safely): use gloves when handling any parts of this potentially toxic herb. I recommend drying it naturally (away from reach of children or animals, etc) and then bottling the dried herb to wear as an amulet or use as a spirit fetiche.