Foods that Contain Nicotine

Nicotine has been given a bad rap for over a century; however, it has a long history of medicinal use. When Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, he encountered indigenous populations using tobacco, introducing it to Europe, where it became popular for its stimulating effects. Between 1537 and 1559, publications in Europe and Mexico extensively discussed tobacco’s medicinal benefits among the indigenous peoples of the New World. These accounts highlighted its therapeutic properties in treating various bodily ailments, such as catarrh, colds, and fevers, as well as its role in aiding digestion and suppressing hunger. Tobacco continued to be utilized for medicinal purposes in America until the 1920s.

The nightshade family (Solanaceae) is renowned for its high nicotine levels, found in several commonly consumed vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers, as well as some processed products derived from them. According to one study, nicotine levels in edible Solanaceae fruits remain relatively consistent, ranging from 2-7 µg/kg in fresh fruits.

However, the research also found that nicotine concentrations in certain tomato varieties tend to decrease as the fruits ripen, except for specific processed tomato varieties. Additionally, various black and green teas have been examined for nicotine content, showing considerable variability, occasionally surpassing that of nightshade fruits. Other common nightshade vegetables like potatoes and eggplants also contain significant amounts of nicotine. Nicotine serves as a natural defense mechanism against fungi and bacteria[i].These findings highlight the widespread presence of nicotine in nightshade vegetables and its role as a natural protective agent.

Foods that Contain Nicotine

  ng/g   g
Eggplant 100 Castro and Mpnji ₂ 10
Pureed Tomatoes 52 Castro and Mpnji ₂ 19.2
Green Tomatoes 42.8 Castro and Mpnji ₂ 23.4
Cauliflower 16.8 Davis et al. ₄ 95.5
Potato Pulp 15.3 Davis et al. ₄ 65.4
Tomatoes 10.7 Sheen ₃ 93.5
Potatoes 7.1 Present Study ₁ 140.4
Potato Peel 4.8 Davis et al. ₄ 208
Ripe Tomatoes 4.3 Castro and Mpnji ₂ 233
Ripe Tomatoes 4.1 Present Study ₁ 244
Cauliflower 3.8 Present Study ₁ 263.4

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[i] Athmaram, Thimmasandra. (2016). Evaluation of Novel Nicotine Analogues for their Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Fungal Activity. Journal of Microbiology & Experimentation. 3. 10.15406/jmen.2016.03.00079.

Table Citations

[1] Domino EF, Hornbach E, Demana T. The nicotine content of common vegetables. N Engl J Med. 1993 Aug 5;329(6):437. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199308053290619. PMID: 8326992.

[2] Castro, A, Monji, N. Dietary nicotine and its significance in studies on tobacco smoking. Biochem Arch 1986;2:91-97

[3] Sheen, SJ. Detection of nicotine in foods and plant materials. J Food Sci 1988;53:1572-1573

[4] Davis, RA, Stiles, MF, deBethizy, JD, Reynolds, JH. Dietary nicotine: a source of urinary cotinine. J Food Chem Toxicol 1991;29:821-827