Turkey berry is a popular food and herbal remedy used in a variety of traditional medicine practices. Although it’s very common throughout the world, many people wonder about its best uses and safety. Turkey Berries (Solanum torvum) can be found in Ghana, China, Thailand, The Caribbean, South America, Indonesia, Florida, Alabama, Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico and other places in the world. It is best known in Ghana as Kwahu Nsusua, Beduru, Tinvii tinvii, Kantosey etc. you can easily chance on them in the wild and even in backyard gardens. The leaves of the berry plant are similar to that of the eggplants. It has thorns and can last for about 3 years before replanting from seeds may be required. This article explores everything you need to know about turkey berry, including the science behind some of its most popular applications.
Apart from its health-promoting benefits, turkey berries also help in preventing and healing colds and flu. To do this, use the berries to prepare soup and consume frequently to overcome cold and flu symptoms associated with any respiratory diseases.
What is turkey berry?
Turkey berry is a type of spiny, flowering shrub that produces large clusters of yellow-green, pea-sized berries that can be used for a variety of culinary, horticultural, and medicinal purposes. According to Kaunda and Zhang, 2019, turkey berry also known as Solanum torvum, goes by many names and belongs to the nightshade family of plants. Also, previous phytochemical investigations on Solanum species led to the identification of steroidal saponins, steroidal alkaloids, terpenes, flavonoids, lignans, sterols, phenolic comopunds, coumarins, amongst other compounds. Also, many species belonging to this genus present huge range of pharmacological activities such as cytotoxicity to different tumors as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer cell lines.
Other common names for turkey berry include:
- prickly nightshade
- devil’s fig
- shoo shoo bush
- wild eggplant
- pea eggplant
Turkey berry is a hearty plant that thrives in a variety of climates, but it grows best in sunny, temperate regions.
The plants spread easily, much like weeds. Hence, they can be found all over the world, including in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands
Because turkey berry is so widespread, it’s unclear exactly where it first originated. However, many experts believe it’s probably native to Central and South America.
The science and Health benefits
Health Alert: 12 Benefits of Turkey Berries ('Kwahu Nsusua ...
Turkey berry is used as both a food and herbal remedy for countless physical ailments, including high blood pressure, digestive issues, bacterial infections, and more. Still, scientific research focusing on the medicinal properties of turkey berry is very limited. That said, early evidence from test-tube and animal studies suggests that specific nutrients and plant compounds in turkey berry may be the driving force behind its many purported health benefits.
May prevent and treat anemia
Low iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Iron deficiency anemia is a common condition that may develop as a result of inadequate iron intake. It’s associated with symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Turkey berry is a particularly rich source of plant-based iron and often consumed to treat or prevent iron deficiency anemia. Although turkey berry possesses a high concentration of iron, recent animal research indicates that it may not be well absorbed in the digestive tract. Thus, there’s no guarantee that adding turkey berry to your diet will dramatically improve your iron status according to Agbemafle et al 2019.
Also a 2018 study by Young et al demonstrates that pairing foods that are high in vitamin C, such as strawberries, bell pepper, or citrus fruit, may help increase the absorption of iron from plant-based foods. However, there’s no research available to indicate whether this method improves turkey berry’s ability to treat anemia.
Supports blood pressure
In the United States, nearly 50% of adults have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Early research suggests that compounds in turkey berry may serve as a natural way to lower blood pressure . Turkey berry is loaded with a variety of unique compounds, such as gallic acid and ferulic acid, which have demonstrated strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in test-tube studies. Ramamurthy et al 2012, study indicate that S. torvum fruit is an excellent source of natural antioxidant and could be an effective nutritional food supplement, which interns will have therapeutic applications.
Mohan et al 2009 animal study found that turkey berry extract significantly reduced blood pressure in rats with high blood pressure. Solanum torvum (Solanaceae) is a plant used in Cameroon ethnomedicine for the treatment of hypertension. The study which was aimed to determine the effect of ethanolic extract of Solanum torvum on systolic blood pressure (SBP), vascular reactivity, serum glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin and uric acid in fructose-induced hypertension.
The study concluded that turkey berry could prevent the development of high blood pressure induced by a diet rich in fructose probably by reversing the metabolic alterations induced by fructose. Though, this is one animal study, there are currently no studies available to determine whether turkey berry can help lower blood pressure in humans. Thus, no specific results can be guaranteed.
Additionally, the berries contain saponins, flavonoids, torvosides, alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, cholorogenome, etc. These are powerful antioxidants that prevent cardiovascular disease, strokes and cancer. The dried berries made into a powder helps to lower blood pressure and prevent heart attacks.
Treatment of Phlegm and mucus
Turkey berries can also help get rid of phlegm and mucus. Dry berries and make into powder, this will dry up the mucus. They help with asthma, coughing, lung inflammation etc.
Prevention and treatment of Kidney disease
According to Dr Paul Haider , studies show that the berries can also help prevent and treat kidney disease. And even reverse tubular necrosis and glomerular congestion. Therefore it is important for treating kidney disease
Support healthy immune function
HEALTH BENEFITS OF TURKEY BERRIES TO HUMAN. – come CHERISghana
Test-tube studies have shown that turkey berry has potent antimicrobial properties that may promote healthy immune function in multiple ways. The immune system consists of a complex collection of cells, processes, and chemicals that constantly defends your body against invading pathogens, including viruses, toxins, and bacteria. Keeping the immune system healthy year-round is key to preventing infection and disease. Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to bolster your immune system. In addition, research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.
One study conducted by Arthan et al 2002, observed that turkey berry may be effective against the herpes simplex virus. Another 2015 study by Fokuo et al demonstrated that, turkey berry’s antimicrobial properties have also been found to be useful for keeping wounds clean and helping heal cuts and ulcers. The study concluded that, natural products represent potential alternatives to standard therapies for use as curative medicine for Mycobacterium ulcerans disease.
The early data is promising; more well-designed human studies are needed to determine whether turkey berry can be reliably used to promote healthy immune function in humans. Early research suggests that turkey berry may help prevent anemia, lower blood pressure, and promote immunity, but more research is needed.
Prevention of Pains, redness and gout
The berries help flush out uric acid thus helping to prevent or reduce pain, redness and symptoms of gout. Moreover, Turkey Berry Leaf contains powerful anti-inflammatory agent and natural steroids called soasoline. It is great for arthritis, lower back pain and swelling, and pain in general. Turkey Berries are very important for health since inflammation is the first step towards all diseases.
Frequent consumption of turkey Berries help to regulate menstruation and so help with regular menstrual periods. So anyone with menstrual problems can include turkey berry in their regular diet to solve all the associated problems.
Prevents intestinal worms
Regular intakes of the berries help to prevent the development of worms within the intestine. Dried and powdered berries can also be added to gravies and eaten for better result.
Treatment of Phlegm and mucus
Including turkey berries in your regular diet help to get rid of phlegm and mucus. Dry the berries and make into powder, this will dry up the mucus, helps with asthma, coughing, lung inflammation etc.
Prevention and healing of Colds and flu
Apart from its health promoting benefits, turkey berries also help in preventing and healing colds and flu. Use the berries to prepare soup and consume frequently to overcome cold and flu symptoms.
Treatment of Indigestion and diarrhea
Regular consumption of turkey Berry is considered good for digestion and helps to treat indigestion, stomachaches, diarrhea as well as other digestion related problems. These berries are capable of neutralizing acid in the stomach making them significant for healing gastric ulcers.
A recent 2019 study by Kaunda and Zhang demonstrates that all parts of the turkey berry plant, including its roots, stems, leaves, and fruit, are used for medicinal and culinary purposes throughout the world. The fruit is often fried in oil or ghee and consumed whole, whereas the leaves, stems, and roots may be dried and consumed as a powder, tea, or tincture.
Although turkey berry is used frequently and generally considered safe, there’s a lack of strong data when it comes to assessing its precise dosage and the potential risk of side effects upon ingestion. Turkey berry belongs to the same family of plants as nightshade vegetables, which includes potatoes , peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.
Smith et al 2008, report on two geographically, temporally disparate outbreaks of poisoning by susumber berries (Solanum torvum- Solanaceae) and on detection of alkaloids not present in non-toxic berries. Five family members in New York City participated in a traditional evening meal containing Jamaican susumber berries. All those consuming berries were symptomatic the following morning with varying degrees of gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, slurred speech, cranial nerve deficits, and ataxia. The most seriously afflicted patient developed hypertension, confusion, proximal upper extremity weakness, and hypercapnic respiratory failure requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation. A separate cohort of six patients in Toronto ate unripe Jamaican susumber berries. They presented 14h post-ingestion with varying degrees of diarrhea, weakness, facial paralysis, slurred speech, ataxia, early hypertension, and proximal weakness. Two patients had ventilatory decompensation; one required intubation. Poisonous berries appeared indistinguishable from non-toxic varieties. The report concluded.
Like other nightshades, turkey berry contains a class of compounds called glycoalkaloids. When consumed in large doses, glycoalkaloids can cause adverse digestive and neurological symptoms, such as nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, dizziness, and confusion as per Smith et al 2008 study. The study in addition further reports that the concentration of glycoalkaloids naturally declines as the plant matures. Thus, it’s thought to be safer to only consume fully ripe turkey berry fruit.
That said, certain people may be more sensitive to the effects of glycoalkaloids than others. If you have a history of difficulty digesting nightshades, turkey berry probably isn’t the best choice for you. There isn’t robust scientific evidence regarding the safety of turkey berry among women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, in Ghana, turkey berry is recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women to improve iron status and promote lactation according to Koffuor et al 2011.
Ansley Hill, 2020 of Healthline has this to say: “given the lack of research and fact that poisonous varieties may be indistinguishable from non-toxic berries, it’s best to consult your doctor prior to adding turkey berry to your diet — especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any underlying medical conditions”. Turkey berry is generally safe for most people. However, it contains a potentially toxic substance that could make you sick if you ingest too much, she added.
I. Turkey berry is a popular plant used all over the world for its unique nutritional and medicinal properties. It belongs to the same family of plants as some other common vegetables like eggplant , tomato, and peppers.
II. Turkey berry helps in the Prevention and healing of Colds and flu associated with any respiratory diseases. So in this period of the pandemic, use the berries to prepare soup and consume frequently to overcome cold and flu symptoms.
III. Turkey berry is used to treat a wide range of illnesses, including high blood pressure, wounds, anemia, and bacterial and viral infections. However, modern research supporting its efficacy for these purposes is mostly limited to test-tube and animal studies.
IV. Most people can safely consume turkey berry, but it’s important to make sure it’s ripe before you consume it, as unripe turkey berry can cause negative neurological and digestive symptoms.
DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
The writer is an honorary Professor of Holistic Medicine-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine and currently, LLB law/MBA Student. He is the formulator of FDA approved Nyarkotey Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support and wellness, Men’s Formula for Prostate Health and Women’s Formula for wellness. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556
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II. Agbemafle I, Hanson N, Bries AE, Reddy MB. Alternative Protein and Iron Sources from Edible Insects but Not Solanum torvum Improved Body Composition and Iron Status in Malnourished Rats. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2481. Published 2019 Oct 16. doi:10.3390/nu11102481
III. Young I, Parker HM, Rangan A, et al. Association between Haem and Non-Haem Iron Intake and Serum Ferritin in Healthy Young Women. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):81. Published 2018 Jan 12. doi:10.3390/nu10010081
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VII. Tsouh Fokou PV, Nyarko AK, Appiah-Opong R, Tchokouaha Yamthe LR, Ofosuhene M, Boyom FF. Update on Medicinal Plants with Potency on Mycobacterium ulcerans. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:917086. doi:10.1155/2015/917086
VIII. Smith SW, Giesbrecht E, Thompson M, Nelson LS, Hoffman RS. Solanaceous steroidal glycoalkaloids and poisoning by Solanum torvum, the normally edible susumber berry. Toxicon. 2008;52(6):667-676. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2008.07.016
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X. Turkey Berry: Benefits and Side Effects – Healthline, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-berry