Toxic Eggplant?

Who’d a thought these beautiful shiny babies could be toxic? Well…not me, that’s for sure…but after six days of detox and recovery from solanine poisoning I finally feel up to blogging about these beautiful purple gems! Now, mind you, I love eggplant…probably more than most…especially married with our lovely Kylemore Acres Bolognese Seasoning Mix. That is…Eggplant Parmigiana. Mmmmmm….I think I like that better than my spinach lasagna. Well…that is…I did until last Sunday!


In fact, my Eggplant Parmigiana was soooo yummy that not only did I have some for dinner, but I had some again later at tea time…BIG MISTAKE! I noticed that in the evening I was excessively thirsty and drank 3 bottles of water. On Monday when I awoke I had an excruciating headache, my tummy was the size of a basketball and the pain of it was unreal. I had trouble walking all day because every step I took made stabbing pains in my tummy. I had nausea and leg muscle cramps each time I climbed the stairs.

By late afternoon I had symptoms of hypothermia and was FREEZING. With 3 layers of clothes on, the heater on full blast so that the room temp was around 80F and covered with a blanket up over my head and my hands wrapped up I was STILL shivering. To try and detox I had a green juice in the morning and nothing to eat all day except 2 oranges. So….remembering that my daughter, Julie, said she can’t eat eggplant because she gets tummy pains, I decided to google “eggplant toxins”. That’s when I discovered solanine poisoning.

Apparently, there are a few vegetables that contain a toxin known as solanine used as a defense against pests. Solanine is a toxin found naturally in plants from the nightshade family – potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum. There is loads of information about solanine plant poisoning…here is what one source says…

Solanine can occur naturally in the any part of the plant, including the leaves, fruit, and tubers. It is very toxic even in small quantities. Solanine has both fungicidal and pesticidal properties, and it is one of the plant’s natural defenses. Potatoes naturally produce solanine and chaconine, a related glycoalkaloid, as a defense mechanism against insects, disease, and predators. Potato leaves and stems are naturally high in glycoalkaloids.

Commercial varieties of potatoes are screened for solanine levels, and most have a solanine content of less than 0.2mg/g. However potatoes that have been exposed to light and started to green (see greening) can show concentrations of 1 mg/g or more. In these situations a single unpeeled potato can result in a dangerous dose.

Solanine poisoning is primarily displayed by gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, headaches and dizziness. Hallucinations, loss of sensation, and paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils and hypothermia have been reported in more severe cases.

In large quantities, solanine poisoning can cause death. One study suggests that doses of 2 to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight can cause toxic symptoms, and doses of 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight can be fatal.

Symptoms usually occur 8 to 12 hours after ingestion, but may occur as rapidly as 30 minutes after eating high-solanine foods.

Most solanine occurs in the skin or just under the skin of potatoes. Peeled potatoes have been found to contain 30-80% less solanine than unpeeled potatoes, and green potatoes should always be peeled if they are to be used at all. Solanine and chaconine are also present in potato shoots.

Deep-frying potatoes at 170 °C is effective at lowering glycoalkaloid levels, boiling is ineffective, and microwaving only somewhat effective.

Solanine is also used in pesticides sprayed on vegetables. Because I eat organic vegetables I would not normally be exposed to solanine. Therefore…intolerant!

Okay…so…with that bit of information…I decided to detox, taking one day at a time and see how I got on. Tuesday the headache and nausea and hypothermia symptoms were gone…just the bloated tummy and pains lingered….more green juice and only fruit. On Wednesday more of the same. However, by tea time I ventured to have a “raw” soup…Coconut Curry Soup with freshly chopped tomato, coriander and avocado. By Thursday my tummy wasn’t as bloated and the pain wasn’t as bad so I tried a salad for lunch…not great. By Friday I was feeling chipper and did my workout… the tummy was normal size, but with mild cramps. This time…carrot and apple juice, more fruit, a salad and another Coconut Curry Soup. By Saturday, I was feeling 98% but I still ate on the light side.

Today…yippee…normality again. Just in time for Mother’s Day today in Ireland. I treated us to homemade vegetarian Indian spring rolls, Tandoori prawns and Indian Lemon Rice.

So, what did I learn? I will ALWAYS peel the eggplant now because the solanine is located in the skin of an eggplant, and I will NEVER eat firm, under-ripe eggplants because they have a higher toxin level. And…I think it will be a long time before I eat eggplant again…no matter how much I love my Eggplant Parmigiana!

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9 Responses to Toxic Eggplant?

  1. Bethany says:

    I, too, am dealing w/eggplant poisoning right now…I ate some white eggplant, baked, Thurs. night and again Fri. lunch. That afternoon I became violently ill. Horrible vomiting ever…Never have been so sick. Also had a headache. I’ve been weak and tired all weekend. This is a terrible thing that has happened. I wonder if I’ll ever get better…I am very thin so cannot gain back the weight I have lost. I’m keeping fluids down but wondered if you have advice. Nothing sounds good to me. I only vomited about 2 hrs. Fri. eve. but seemed like forever. Still don’t feel good and was very sick again this morn. It came out the other end. Thinking of seeing a doctor now…

    • Diana says:

      Wow. Sounds like you had it worse than I did. You should recover if you are healthy. Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. See a doctor if your health doesn’t improve and eat high water content raw fruit and veg. All the best.

  2. Dante says:

    Thanks for the post. I had a similar experience following a delicious garden-grown eggplant meal (with marinara sauce). Keep in mind, though, that tomatoes are also nightshades, along with potatoes and peppers, and also contain this poison. Even blueberries, strawberries, okra and artichokes contain solanine. So, depending on one’s sensitivity, avoidance of these foods may also be prudent. I am currently avoiding all nightshades and researching the health benefits, which are numerous. Those with any type of inflammation should avoid these foods altogether. Some folks can tolerate nightshades, but I have come to find that while I could when younger, I cannot anymore. The effects, are apparently cumulative, from what I’ve read.
    Good luck!

  3. Rafaela says:

    Well, Iam now worried because for several days I have been drinking shakes of raw eggplant with pineapple.

    • Diana says:

      If you haven’t had any effects within 24 hours, then you’re most likely okay. To be safe, make sure you peel the eggplants. After that learning experience for me, I have had eggplant parmisan many times and no more effects because I make sure to always peel the eggplant and I don’t use under-ripe ones.

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  5. Karen says:

    I ate a frozen quiche which had eggplant I bought 6 days ago. The next morning, I thought I had a gall bladdar attack and was having strong heart pains and pains in my abdomen. I had xrays, ultrasounds, and bloodwork, and the doctors tell me all my organs are fine. I am a very healthy eater…lots of veggies, home grown meat and raw milk.
    Basically my bowels have completely slowed down. Im wondering what else I can do for this? Im eating a low fat diet and slow etc, but wondering if it could have been the eggplant and what else can I do??? Im in pain and the docs arent doing much for me.

  6. bellyache says:

    Ah ha!! I knew it was the Eggplant! I ate Eggplant for the first time in my life almost 3 Sundays ago, just two spatula sized helpings cause it was so good it was Eggplant Parmigiana, I like anything Parmigiana by the way…lol, anyhow, I ate it and maybe an hour later I was doubled over in pain with cramps. I never vomited or had really bad Diarrhea (just some) but i had headaches, profuse sweating, even when I wasnt hot.. had some nausia that came and went, bad stomach cramping and I felt so run down, like i hadnt slept in a month which was strange because I was so tired, I slep all the time, even during lunch at work. Worst part was that I had lost my appitite and when I did eat it was totally the wrong thing, bowl of cereal, grilled cheese sandwich, coffee… but, now im feeling a bit better and am seeing my DR tomorrow. but… I had a suspicion it was the Eggplant… im never eating that devil veggie again!

  7. Michael says:

    Thanks for the article. Have been ill for most of the day and I am convinced it is from eating aubergines. Yesterday ı bought a small variety of aubergine and baked it in the oven with a tomato sauce. This morning was unable to go to work. Will not be doing that again! Just it would be good to know more on what to do in cases of solanine poisoning.