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Your plants might be more dangerous than you think  RSS feed

 
Bryant RedHawk
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In the cooking section Joseph Lofthouse brings up the fact that dried beans contain poison.
So, I thought it might be a good idea to give everyone here a list of plants that contain poisons, along with how these work and what the symptoms are.
This is not something put up to scare folks. But you might want to keep a copy of this for reference.
I know most of us are aware of many of these but it never hurts to have a list to refer too.

First the beans:

Kidney beans contain a natural toxin called lectin.
This can cause stomach aches and vomiting.
The toxin is destroyed by proper cooking

When using dried kidney beans, follow these three steps to destroy the toxins:
•soak the dried beans in water for at least 12 hours
•drain and rinse the beans, then cover them with fresh water
•boil them vigorously for at least 10 minutes, then simmer the beans for around 45-60 minutes to make them tender

Soya beans contain a natural toxin called a trypsin inhibitor.
This can stop you digesting food properly.
The toxin is destroyed by proper cooking.

When using dried soya beans, follow these three steps to destroy the toxins:
•soak the dried beans in water for at least 12 hours
•drain and rinse the beans, then cover them with fresh water
•boil them vigorously for one hour, then simmer the beans for about two to three hours to make them tender

And now the not nearly complete, but "usual culprits" list:

Abrus precatorius [Fabaceae] (precatory bean, rosary pea).
A single seed can kill an adult. Symptoms may not appear for one to three days.
Phytotoxins are abrin and the tetanic glycoside, abric acid, which are chemically related to the toxins produced by bacteria and snake venoms.
Symptoms of poisoning include anemia, circulatory collapse, cold sweat, coma, convulsions, diarrhea, drowsiness, fast pulse, general weakness,
kidney failure, labored breathing, nausea, severe stomach pain, trembling, vomiting, and weak pulse.
May cause death. The seeds are large and used as beads on Mexican necklaces. The plant is grown in the south and central parts of Florida

Aconitum napellus, A. columbianum [Ranunculaceae] (monkshood, wolfsbane, aconite, buttercup).
Grows in cool, damp, mountainous areas. Has blue or yellow flowers.
A. ferox roots are the source of the Nepalese poison "bikh" (a.k.a. "bish" or "nabee").
Aconitum's toxic properties come from pseudaconitine, one of the deadliest poisons.
It causes a tingling sensation in the mouth, skin, and stomach, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, muscular weakness, spasms, weak pulse,
respiratory failure, dimming vision, low blood pressure, and convulsions.
There is no antidote.
Even a small drop of the plant can be fatal.
The roots and seeds are most toxic, containing aconine and aconitine, and are at their most toxic when the plant is in its pre-flowering stage.
The roots can be mistaken for horseradish.

Amanita phalloides, A. muscaria [Amanitaceae] (destroying angel, deadly amanita, death cap, fly agaric).
This is the most dangerous species of mushroom in North America.
It accounts for 90% of all mushroom poisonings in the United States.
Only one or two mushrooms can kill, even after being cooked.
As little as one-third of a mushroom cap can kill a child.
Symptoms occur from six to 24 hours after ingestion: intense abdominal pain, profuse vomiting, diarrhea, circulatory failure,
coma, liver damage (resulting in jaundice), Usually fatal; recovery is rare even after treatment.

Astragalus spp. [Leguminosae] (locoweed).
Contains alkaloids that are toxic.
There are hundreds of species, all toxic, even when they are dried out.
All are capable of causing immediate death or chronic poisoning which ultimately leads to death.

Atropa belladonna [Solanaceae] (deadly nightshade).
This plant is an ornamental in the southwest part of the United States.
The bulbs contain the toxic alkaloids, which cause respiratory paralysis.
A mere three berries can kill a child.

Buxus longifolia [Buxaceae] (box tree).
This plant's black glossy seeds can be fatal when eaten, particularly by children.

Caladium spp. [Araceae] (elephant ears).
The parts of these plants all contain calcium oxalate raphides which cause burning and intense irritation of the lips, mouth, and pharynx.

Cicuta maculata, C. douglasii, Cicuta spp. [Apiaceae, Umbelliferae] (water hemlock, cowbane).
This is probably the most violently poisonous plant in the northern temperate zone of the world.
At least 30% of all poisonings are fatal. The roots and new growth are the most toxic, as is the fruit.
The toxins act on the central nervous system causing frothing at the mouth, spasms, tremors, dilated pupils, intestinal distress and pain,
diarrhea, convulsions, delirium, respiratory failure, paralysis, and death.
A single mouthful or two bites of the root is enough to kill an adult male within 30 minutes or less.

Claviceps purpurea [Clavicipitaceae] (ergot).
This is a fungal disease of grain, which when ingested causes seizures and hallucinations.
Ergot was investigated by Timmothy Leary in the early 1960's. It is Ergot from which L.S.D. was first isolated.

Codiaeum tiglium, Codiaeum spp. [Euphorbiaceae] (croton).
Ingestion of the seeds, which contain "oil of croton," cause a burning pain in the mouth and stomach,
rapid heartbeat, bloody diarrhea, coma, and in severe cases, death.
A lot of seeds have to be ingested by an adult to be fatal.

Colchicum autumnale [Colchicaceae] (autumn crocus).
The toxin in this plant is an alkaloid called colchicine, which is present in all parts of the plant.
When ingested, symptoms of poisoning include a burning in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea,
respiratory problems, muscle weakness, kidney failure, circulatory collapse, shock, and often death.
(Colchicine is used as a "Mutator" in the seed industry, it will cause polypoloidism in the DNA/RNA of surviving seeds.

Conium maculatum [Apiaceae, Umbelliferae] (poison hemlock).
The leaves of this plant are often mistaken for parsley.
The seeds and the roots are the most toxic, as they contain the alkaloid conine and other related alkaloids.
The plant has a very unpleasant taste, so voluntary ingestion is unlikely.

Convallaria majalis [Convallariceae, Liliaceae, Ruscaceae] (lily of the valley).
This plant contains a glycoside, convallatoxin, which is similar to the action of digitalis.
It acts as a stimulus to the heart and also contains irritating saponins.
The water in which lily of the valley is kept is poisonous and can kill if accidentally ingested.
Symptoms of poisoning include mouth pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, hallucinations, depression, heart failure, and death.

Cyanophyta [Nostocaceae, Oscillatoriaceae] (blue green algae).
The entire plant is toxic, and if either drinking or swimming in water with dense blooms,
symptoms of poisoning can occur within 15-45 minutes, death in 1-24 hours.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, bluish skin, convulsing, general paralysis, and death.

Datura meteloides [Solanaceae] (jimson weed, devil's weed, moonflower).
The seeds are toxic, and only 20 can cause poisoning in an adult.
Symptoms of poisoning include dry mouth, thirst, redness of skin, disturbed vision, pupil dilation, nausea,
vomiting, headache, hallucinations, excitement, rapid pulse, delirium, incoherent speech, convulsions, elevated temperature, high blood pressure, coma and, in severe cases, death.

Dieffenbachia maculata [Araceae] (dumb cane).
The leaves contain water-insoluble calcium oxalate raphides and protein-based toxins.
There is immediate and intense pain on contact with the mouth.
The mucus lining swells and speech may become intelligible or impossible.
Contact dermatitis and inflammation of the cornea and the conjunctiva are also common.

Euphorbia spp. [Euphorbiaceae] (euphorbia).
There are over 1,500 species.
Most of them produce a milky latex that contains complex terpenes (unsaturated hydrocarbons).
Contact with the latex causes dermatitis, inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea, and gastritis.
Poinsettias do not contain the toxic terpenes common to other species.

Galanthus nivalis [Amaryllidaceae] (snowdrop).
The bulb contains lycorine which affects the heart and nervous system.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Gelsemium sempervirens [Loganiaceae, Gelsemiaceae] (yellow jasmine).
The roots and nectar contain the alkaloids gelsemine and gelseminine.
Symptoms of poisoning include profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, double vision,
convulsions, respiratory problems, paralysis of motor nerves, and death.

Gloriosa spp. [Colchicaceae, Ruscaceae] (gloriosa lily).
The tubers are the most toxic and contain colchicine and other poisonous alkaloids which result in death within four hours of ingestion.
Contact with the mouth results in numbness and burning of the lips, tongue, and throat.
Ingestion results in burning of the stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, shock, convulsions, respiratory failure, and death.

Hedera helix, H. canariensis [Araliaceae] (English ivy, Algerian ivy).
The leaves and berries are poisonous, containing hederin.
Symptoms of poisoning include burning in the throat, gastroenteritis, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Helleborus niger [Ranunculaceae] (Christmas rose).
The entire plant contains digitalis-like glycosides, saponins, and irritants called protoanemonins.
Symptoms of poisoning include pain in the mouth and abdomen, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea.
Toxicity of the digitalis glycoside can result in rhythmic disturbances in the heart.

Hippeastrum spp. [Amaryllidaceae] (amaryllis).
The bulb contains emetic lycorine and small amounts of related alkaloids.
Ingestion in large amounts results in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Hydrangea spp. [Hydrangeaceae] (hydrangea).
The flower buds are extremely toxic containing a glycoside which reacts with water or saliva to release cyanide ions.
The symptoms of poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy, sweating, and sometimes coma.

Hyoscyamus niger [Solanaceae] (henbane).
This is an herb that produces a fetid odor when crushed.
The seed pods or seeds themselves contain the alkaloid hyoscyamine, which can be fatal when ingested by a child.

Iris spp. [Iridaceae] (iris).
The roots of some species are toxic.
They contain an irritant resin.
Symptoms of poisoning include stomach and intestinal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Lantana spp. [Verbenaceae] (lantana).
This plant is found all over the United States.
It's green berries are the most toxic part.
Symptoms of poisoning include stomach and intestinal irritation, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, muscular weakness, jaundice, circulatory collapse and, in severe cases, death.

Lobelia cardinalis, Lobelia spp. [Campanulaceae, Lobeliaceae] (lobelia).
All parts of the plant are poisonous and contain lobeline, lobelamine, and other alkaloids.
Can be fatal. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, sweating, exhaustion,
weakness, lowered temperature, prostration, feeble pulse, dilated pupils, abdominal pain, stupor, tremors, convulsions, respiratory failure, and coma.

Malus sylvestris [Rosaceae] (apple).
The seeds contain prussic acid (cyanide).
A single cup of seeds is sufficient to be fatal.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, bluish skin, convulsing, general paralysis and, in severe cases, death.

Manihot spp. [Euphorbiaceae] (cassavas, tapiocas, maniocs).
The roots are toxic when raw.
They contain amygdalin, a soluble cyanogenetic glycoside that breaks down into hydrocyanic acid (cyanide).
Symptoms of poisoning include muscular incoordination, convulsions, coma, and death, usually within minutes of ingestion.

Monstera deliciosa [Araceae] (split-leaf philodendron, Swiss cheese plant).
Contact between the leaves and the mouth results in burning of the lips and mouth, acute inflammation, blistering and swelling of the tissues, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing.

Narcissus spp. [Amaryllidaceae] (daffodil, jonquil, narcissus).
The bulbs contain lycorine, which can paralyze the heart and number the central nervous system.
The bulbs also contain alkaloids. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Nerium oleander [Apocynaceae] (oleander).
Ingestion of a single leaf can be fatal to an adult, usually within the space of one day.
The plant contains the cardiac glycosides oleandrin and nerioside (which produces physiological effects similar to those of digitalis).
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, bloody diarrhea, dizziness, slowed pulse rate, cold extremities, irregular heartbeat,
dilated pupils, drowsiness, unconsciousness, lung paralysis, convulsions, coma, and death.

Papaver somniferum [Papaveraceae] (common poppy).
It is not legal to cultivate the opium poppy, so it should not be confused with a garden poppy.
The poison is in the morphine and other plant alkaloids found in the dried milky sap and fruits (not the seeds like those used on top of breads).
Symptoms of poisoning include shallow and slow breathing, stupor, respiratory distress, circulatory depression, coma, and death.

Philodendron scandens [Araceae] (heartleaf philodendron).

The leaves contain raphides (needle-like, water insoluble crystals which cause painful itching), which contain calcium oxalate (a salt or ester of poisonous oxalic acid) in addition to irritant proteins.
Symptoms of poisoning on contact with the mouth include pain and burning of the lips, mouth, and tongue, and on ingestion, pain and burning of the throat.
Contact with the plant juices can result in dermatitis.

Phoradendron species [Viscaceae, Santalaceae] (mistletoe).
The berries are the most toxic.
They contain the amines beta-phenylethylamine and tyramine which can be fatal within a few hours.
Symptoms of poisoning include stomach and intestinal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, delirium, convulsions, slow pulse, collapse, heart failure, and death.

Prunus caroliniana [Rosaceae] (laurel cherry, Carolina cherry).
This is an ornamental plant found in the southwest of the United States.
The seeds and leaves contain the cyanogenic glycoside amygdalin, which breaks down into the toxic hydrocyanic (prussic) acid (cyanide) when hydrolyzed.
The seeds are the most toxic.
Symptoms of poisoning include dizziness, spasms, stupor, twitching, paralysis of the l cords, convulsions, coma, and sometimes death.

Ricinus communis [Euphorbiaceae] (castor bean).
The entire plant is toxic owing to the phytotoxin ricin.
The seeds are especially toxic.
Ingesting only 2-8 can be fatal to an adult in one to twelve days.
Symptoms of poisoning include burning of the mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, bloody diarrhea, excessive thirst, prostration, dullness of vision, convulsions, kidney failure, circulatory collapse, and death.

Solanum nigrum [Solanaceae] (black nightshade).
The unripe berries contain glyco-alkaloid solanine.
Even a small amount can be fatal.
Symptoms of poisoning include headache, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, below normal body temperature, shock, circulatory and respiratory depression, loss of sensation, paralysis, and death.

Solanum tuberosum [Solanaceae] (potato).
The tubers themselves contain solanine, which affects the nervous system.
It is most concentrated in the layer next to the skin, particularly in green skin areas, and also in the "eye" or sprouts.
Ingestion of solanine can be fatal.

Sophora secundiflora, Sophora spp. [Fabaceae] (mescal bean).
The seeds are most toxic and contain cytisine and other poisonous alkaloids.
The seeds have to be crushed or chewed to be poisonous.
A single seed chewed by a child can be fatal.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excitement, delirium, hallucinations, coma, and death.

Spathiphyllum spp. [Araceae] (peace lily, white anthurium).
All parts of the plant contain water insoluble raphides of calcium oxalate.
Contact with the mouth results in burning, irritation, and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and pharynx. Ingestion causes gastroenteritis.
Root juices can cause contact dermatitis.

Strychnos nux vomica, Strychnos spp. [Loganiaceae] (poison nut).
This tree from India is the primary commercial source of strychnine, which is found mainly in the bark and seeds.
It has a very bitter taste due to the monoacid base causing an alkaline reaction.
It rapidly enters the bloodstream where it then acts on the central nervous system.
Symptoms of poisoning occur within 15-20 minutes and include stiffness at the back of the neck, muscle twitching,
a feeling of impending suffocation, whole body convulsions alternating with relaxation periods, and death.

Thevetia peruviana [Apocynaceae] (yellow oleander).
The fruit is the most toxic.
It contains the toxic cardiac glycosides thevetin and peruvoside, and it has effects similar to those of digitalis.
A single fruit can be fatal to an adult.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, drowsiness, irregular pulse and heartbeat, high blood pressure, convulsions, heart failure, and death.

Zantedeschia spp. [Araceae] (calla lily).
The leaves contain raphides of calcium oxalate.
When ingested, these cause burning in the mouth and lips, sometimes with inflammation and swelling.

Zigadenus paniculatus [Liliaceae] (deathcamas).
The bulbs contain the toxins and can be fatal.
They are often mistaken for wild onion or garlic.

 
David Livingston
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Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) leaves contain Oxalic Acid /Oxalic Carbonate When ingested, these cause burning in the mouth and lips, sometimes with inflammation and swelling.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

Astragalus spp. [Leguminosae] (locoweed).
Contains alkaloids that are toxic.
There are hundreds of species, all toxic, even when they are dried out.


Except maybe Astragalus crassicarpus, Ground Plum

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Astragalus+crassicarpus
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Astragalus crassicarpus
Many members of this genus contain toxic glycosides.

All species with edible seedpods can be distinguished by their fleshy round or oval seedpod that looks somewhat like a greengage.

A number of species can also accumulate toxic levels of selenium when grown in soils that are relatively rich in that element
 
Tyler Ludens
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Your list said

Astragalus spp. ...
There are hundreds of species, all toxic,

I interpreted that to mean that all the hundreds of species of Astragalus are toxic.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes, there are hundreds of species of astragalus, and there are some that perfectly fine for eating, but you need to know what you have first.
I just put up what the USDA says about this genus.

we all probably eat potatoes, which do have a toxin. But, as long as we don't eat potatoes that are "GREEN" in color we won't have any problems.

Most people would freak out if they actually studied toxicology, it is very much like those who study Psychology,
in the beginning students think they have most of the symptoms they are beginning to learn about,
only later down the course line do they gather enough understanding to realize they aren't "crazy".

Assumptions usually are not a good way to gain understanding or knowledge.

Just because research finds compounds that are toxic does not automatically exclude all the species of a genus from the ability to be consumed.
PUFFER FISH are toxic, but the Japanese have found a way to eat them.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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If a poisonous plant/weed is used to make a plant tea for the edible garden plants, can poisons in any way accumulate in the fruit or vegetable the plant produces?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The short sweet answer is Yes they can. However, the act of making teas usually includes items that can reduce or eliminate the toxins.

Most toxins are soluble in water, this makes it really hard to not have them dissolve into the tea.

Most toxins degrade (break down) with heat, so if you cooked the suspected plant material, you would most likely negate the toxin effect.

Just be aware of what you are using to make you teas, and treat the ingredients appropriately if they contain (or might contain) toxins.

Addendum: when you use a tea for watering the soil, the probability of toxin uptake is reduced when compared to foliar feeding plants.
The soil can act as a filter and if you have mushroom spawn in your soil the hyphae will act as filters, trapping many known toxins, a great reason to move towards myco-remediation techniques.
Foliar feeding is a direct uptake method of adding nutrients to plants, this allows any toxins to be taken into the plant and so get into the produce faster than with in soil nutrient supplementation.

For an example, I used to grow show roses, I regularly used a tea that contained several ingredients that were toxin bearers, since these were roses that would not be eaten, no worries.

I used the same tea on my tomatoes and squashes, but I heated the tea to a boil then simmered it for 15 minutes. Then I let it cool back to ambient temperature before dilution and application.
I never had any problems with produce I subjected to chemical analysis when I did this method.
I also did a control set of tests, and the quantities of toxins were close to nil, but I prefer to err on the side of extreme safety so I always did the boil and simmer for vegetable application of this tea.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Thank you Bryant. Good information.
 
William Bronson
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Most oh these plants seem to have no other edible uses whatsoever.
For me that makes them doubly unwelcome. Even something like pokeweed is not worth having around in my opinion.
Given the number of plants that have edible greens as well as edible roots and sometimes even edible fruits or seed pods it makes it hard to justify plants that are poisonous. The nightshades are worth it but I'm not certain what is.
 
duane hennon
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just to be on the safe side

I'll stick with bacon and eggs
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some toxic plants such as cassava were apparently domesticated because they wouldn't get eaten by varmints. Humans learned how to de-toxify them (think how smart those folks were!) to be a source of calories.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The raw food crowd seem like they would be much more likely to accidentally poison themselves. The treatment for edible poisonous plants, seems to mostly involve soaking and cooking, then discarding the cooking water.
 
Liz Gattry
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And many plants that are fine for humans are toxic to animals: For example enough onions and garlic can cause red blood cells to break down in dogs and cats, grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs.

The ASPCA has a list of plants toxic to dogs/cats/horses: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

It's pretty close to comprehensive. Off hand I'm not sure of one available for livestock or birds.
 
Steven Feil
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One other thing to consider. Why many compounds are toxic the DOSE to toxicity needs to be investigated and questioned. Comfry, for instance, has been determined to be toxic because it was fed to 6 month old rats as 30% of their diet for a long term. Well SOME of the baby rats got SOME lesions on their liver. So, in our herbal practice we do not do that. We also do not give it to pregnant ladies. We are very careful with small children just to be careful. We have never had an issue with adults.

INTERPRET the data, don't just follow blindly.
 
Sebastian Köln
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If I ever need to poison somebody, I will get back to this list

Galanthus nivalis [Amaryllidaceae] (snowdrop).
The bulb contains lycorine which affects the heart and nervous system.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

I ate some bulbs when I was a child and it didn't cause any harm.

Malus sylvestris [Rosaceae] (apple).
The seeds contain prussic acid (cyanide).
A single cup of seeds is sufficient to be fatal.
Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, bluish skin, convulsing, general paralysis and, in severe cases, death.

Given the taste of apple seeds, eating a cup of the appears to be not extremely likely.

On the other hand, I avoid potatoes, tomatoes and other night shades.
 
Queenie Hankinson
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some of these are also used medically. Colchicine is still used to treat gout and pericarditis.

As an aside, I used to pick potatoes as a kid and my favorite snack were the small, bright green potatoes..we did not know that they were poisonous..never got even a tummy ache.

EXCELLENT ARTICLE,/POST. Thank you
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