Solanaceae: deciduous perennial to 1.5m, with spiny, greyish-white, woody stems. Grows on disturbed ground and in hedgerows, often by the sea. The flowers are purplish, with projecting yellow anthers, appearing from June-September, these are followed by small egg shaped red berries. Introduced from China and naturalised in Britain.
The fruit ca be used raw or cooked, the fruit or berry has a mild sweet licorice flavour. Only the fully ripe fruits should be eaten. The leaves can also be used as an herbal tea.
A sweet tonic decoction made from the fruits is used to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, it acts mainly on the liver and kidneys. The fruit is taken internally in the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, poor eyesight, vertigo, lumbago, impotence and menopausal complaints, the fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. The root bark is a bitter, cooling, antibacterial herb that controls coughs and lowers fevers, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, taken internally in the treatment of chronic fevers, internal haemorrhages, nosebleeds, tuberculosis, coughs, asthma. It is applied externally to treat genital itching. The bark is harvested in the winter and dried for later use. The plant has a long history of medicinal use, both as a general, energy restoring tonic and also to cure a wide range of ailments from skin rashes and eyesight problems to diabetes. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.
Sow seeds in early spring in a greenhouse, germination is usually good and fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter.