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Nightshade

Tobacco

A number of the nightshades that were used for medicine in the past became problematic because of adverse side effects, but they no longer stir the kind of controversy that tobacco has stirred in this country over the past several decades. Europeans discovered tobacco and the pleasures of smoking when they conquered the New World. The Spanish and the English colonists grew tobacco for export to their native countries as early as the seventeenth century. During the years of its early use it had the reputation to cure many diseases.

In its early use it was mainly smoked in pipes. In the eighteenth century snuff was a popular form of tobacco. Chewing tobacco was popular during the late nineteenth century, when cigars and cigarettes were also developed. There was some early opposition to smoking from religious leaders, and in places like China and the Near East, laws were passed to prohibit the importation of tobacco.

Besides the growing of tobacco, its advertising has also become a major industry in this country. Tobacco manufacturers spend a larger percentage of their money in advertising than manufacturers of other products. Today in the United States there is much opposition to the type of advertising that takes place. Many opponents feel that the advertising is directed at young smokers who are the most vulnerable to smoking addiction.

While the United States is the leading producer of tobacco products, it is cultivated in many other parts of the world. The process of growing and curing tobacco before it is manufactured into cigarettes is a complex one and requires a considerable amount of hand labor. The plants are from 2-9 ft (.6-2.7 m) tall, with white, pink, or red flowers. The cultivated plants today have extremely large leaves.

The main areas of opposition to tobacco smoking are links to life-threatening illness such as heart disease and lung cancer. Once addicted to tobacco smoking, the smoker usually finds it difficult to stop because of physical dependence on nicotine, the harmful substance in tobacco. Nicotine acts on the nervous system as a stimulant. It increases the heart rate and narrows the blood vessels as well. People who try to stop smoking usually go through a series of withdrawal symptoms that can include irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia, which often make it difficult for the smoker to quit.


Resources

Books

The American Horticultural Society. The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.

Coffey, Timothy. North American Wildflowers. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

D'Arcy, W.G., ed. Solanaceae: Biology and Systematics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Gregerson, Jon. The Good Earth. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1992.

Heiser, Charles B., Jr. The Fascinating World of the Nightshades. New York: Dover Publications, 1987.


Vita Richman

KEY TERMS

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Alkaloid

—A nitrogen-based chemical, usually of plant origin, also containing oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Many are very bitter and may be active if ingested. Common alkaloids include nicotine, caffeine, and morphine.

Capsule

—A dry, dehiscing fruit derived from two or more carpels.

Dietary staple

—An important food that is a mainstay of a person's diet.

Narcotic

—A drug that depresses the central nervous system and is usually addictive.

Solanacene

—Botanical term for nightshade plants.

Solanum tuberosum

—Botanical name for the potato plant.

Toxin

—A poisonous substance.

Tuber

—A swollen bud of an underground stem, such as a potato.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) to Ockham's razorNightshade - Edible Species Of Nightshades, Tomato, Potato, Eggplant And Peppers, Medicine, Tobacco