Posts Tagged ‘Poison’

Possomhaw Holly – Ilex deciduas

Possumhaw Holly
Possumhaw Holly

O reader! hast thou ever stood to see
The Holly-tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
Its glossy leaves
Ordered by an Intelligence so wise
As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.

 

By Robert Southey (1774-1843)

 This native of low, wet woods can be found throughout the southeast United States. It is one of the deciduous hollies, meaning it loses its leaves come winter. It is state listed as Threatened in Florida. The largest specimen found to date is located in South Carolina. It measures 3 feet around, and 42 feet tall!

 

The berries are generally considered toxic to humans. The low level toxicity causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. But all manner of small mammals, songbirds, and gamebirds, as well as deer find parts of this bush good eating. The deer being the only one to eat the twigs; all the others find the berries to be a delicacy.

 

Because of those same berries it is often planted as a winter ornamental, and a wildlife attractant. The branches with the berries have been collected to use in Christmas decorations. The wood of this shrub is not considered useful due to its small size.

 

Hollies in general (including this one) were used by the Alabama Indians. They took the inner bark of the tree, made a decoction from it and applied this to the eyes.  

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Carolina Nightshade – Solanum carolinense var. carolinense

Carolina Nightshade fruit
Carolina Nightshade fruit

This native of the southeast North America has spread to cover most of the United States. It is known to be weedy and invasive spreading through seeds and its underground rhizomes. It is extremely deep rooted, and if the entire root is not removed it will regrow being a perennial. Of the 44 states in which it grows, 7 of them have listed it as a Noxious weed…Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Iowa and Nevada. Even though this plant is list as a noxious weed it cannot be listed as invasive, since it is native of this land.

 

Another reason for the aversion to this plant is that all green parts, but especially the unripe berries carry an alkaloid (solanine) that is very toxic. It has been shown toxic to horses, cattle, sheep, and humans. The symptomology of poisoning is abdominal pain and may potentially cause circulatory and respiratory depression. If sufficient quantity of the plant is consumed it can be deadly.  Although the unripe berries are toxic, the ripe berries are consumed safely by pheasants, quail, prairie chickens and wild turkeys.

 

The fruits have also been consumed by humans safely although it is not recommended. In times past the ripe berries (after turning yellow) have been used in herbal medicine to treat epilepsy, and to work as a sedative and an anti-spasmodic. In fact the Genus name (Solanum) is taken from the Latin, meaning quieting! According to Foster & Duke (A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants Eastern and Central North America Volume 40: Peterson Field Guides) the berries have been use to treat epilepsy and pain, as a diuretic, antispasmodic, and aphrodisiac.

 

The Cherokee Indians used it in their Herbal medicine. Often referred to as the bull nettle, the ripe, yellow berries were used to treat nervous stress and as a mild sedative. It was also used for treating asthma, and all sorts of bronchial conditions. The Cherokee also used the crushed leaves mixed with sweet milk as a fly poison. In another use the root would be strung on a thread or piece of leather latigo and hung around a teething babies neck to easy the pain!

Mexican Rose – Portulaca grandiflora

Mexican Rose
Mexican Rose

Ode to Portulaca

 

Fleshy annuals, colors of the rainbow
Show faces serene, sparkling and steadfast
As they grow and gleam.
Each petal diminutive but stately
Holds firm in sunshine and droughts…

 

By Donald G. Harmande

This annual, succulent, flowering plant is native to South America, ranging from Argentina and Uruguay through southern Brazil. It found there on the hot dry plains. It is an escape in some areas of Europe. In 1828 American botanist W.J. Hooker embarked on a trip to the Rio Desaguardero in Bolivia, South America, there he was the first to describe this plant.

Its cousin the common Purslane has been grown for centuries for use as a potherb, but the Rose Moss or Mexican Rose has oxalates in the stems and leaves which cause issues on consumption. If properly prepared the oxalates effects (tingling and burning sensations in the mouth and throat) can be negated. The seeds, although very small, can be ground and added to soups or even cereals.

The ASPCA reports that these plants are toxic to cats, dogs and horses causing muscle weakness, depression, and diarrhea. The soluble calcium oxalates are the culprit here also!

In herbal medicine the entire plant is depurative (promoting cleansing). It has been used in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and swelling with pain of the pharynx. The fresh leaves can render a juice that has been utilized in the treatment of snake and insect bites, burns, scalds and eczema.

In the language of flowers the Moss Rose means “confession of love”.

Sago Palm – Cycas revoluta

Sago Palm
Sago Palm

The Sego, or King Sago Palm is native to Japan and China. It grows on hillsides in thickets on small islands on the Japanese chain of islands. They have a thick 2 foot diameter trunk that reproduces through offsets or suckers that grow at the base of the plant. There are several stands that are protected in nature now, but most of these palms grow in cultivation.

 

According to the ASPCA this plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. It is also highly toxic to humans! Cycasin (a toxic glycoside) may cause these symptoms with exposure: vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepatotoxicity characterized by icterus (jaundice), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, and poor functioning), and ascites (fluid in the peritoneal cavity). The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds (epistaxis), melena (blood in the stool), hematochezia (bloody straining), and hemarthrosis (blood in the joints). This plant has great potential as a toxin with pets, as they find the flavor enticing. Every part of this palm has some Cycasin, but it is especially concentrated in the seeds.

 

Even though there is toxicity present in every part of the plant, it was still used for food and medicine. In folk medicine the leaves were used in the treatment of cancer and specifically hepatoma (liver cancer). The seeds were utilized to help rheumatism, and an extract was used to inhibit the growth of cancer tumors.

 

The seed is also eaten raw or cooked! The seed can be dried and ground to be added to rice which is fermented into date miso. The pith of the trunk is dried and powdered then utilized to make dumplings, which are very sustaining.

 

There are methods of treatment of this plant and its seeds that are very exacting to make it palatable and not toxic! To try and use this plant at home is ill advised!!

Redstar Morning Glory – Ipomoea coccinea

Redstar
Redstar

This shining star should be the center attraction in any hummingbird garden. When the light hits the flowers just right the yellow star at its center lights up in a gorgeous display! It is one of the very few examples of a red morning glory, but be careful…it can run away with your garden if you are not careful. In the right situation this plant can become aggressive in its reach for the sun! It is a native of the eastern North America; running from Texas and Florida north to Michigan and Massachusetts. In Arizona and Arkansas it has been declared a noxious weed!

 

As with most members of this family, you need to be careful of ingesting the seeds. The seeds are believed to be highly toxic. Upon ingestion you will find they have hallucinatory properties which may cause distortion of sight and hearing! 

 

This small morning glory was first described in 1753 by Linnaeus who took a word meaning scarlet or red (coccinea) for its species name. The Genus name is taken from two words in the Greek language: ips – meaning worm, and homoios – which means resembling or looks like. These two Greek words combined refers to the worm like twining of the plants of this genus!

 

In the language of flowers the morning glory symbolizes affection, and truly the myth of Chien Niu and Chih Neu reflects that. In Chinese lore they were young people entrusted by God to care for water buffalo (Chien Niu) and seamstress duties (Chih Neu). When they fell in love they forgot their duties in the heavenly kingdom. As a result they were punished by being separated. The star shaped flower of the morning glory represents the one day a year that they may share their affection with one another!

Oleander – Nerium oleander

Oleander flower
Oleander flower

Love cautiously, the Oleander,
from a distance, behold its blooms.
For within its vibrant grandeur,
death’s brew does certainly loom…

Paula Swanson

 

This native shrub of Northern Africa may be one of the most poisonous plants on earth! Every part of the oleander is toxic causing severe digestive upset, heart trouble, contact dermatitis.  In horses there appears severe diarrhea and abnormal heartbeat. The faster that the stomach contents can be eliminated through vomiting the better, followed by charcoal administration to absorb as much of what remains as possible.

 

Through history oleander has been used as medicine, although it is not recommended due to its extreme toxicity. The Mesopotamians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Ancient Arab believed in the use for medical treatment. The Babylonians used oleander compounded with licorice to treat hangovers, and the Arab used as an early treatment for cancer. In more recent history the Chinese and Russian physicians have used oleander to treat heart failure for decades.

 

Heavily diluted oleander preparations have been used to treat muscle cramps, asthma, corns, menstrual pain, epilepsy, paralysis, skin diseases, heart problems, and cancer.

Lantana – Lantana camara

Lantana
Lantana

This native to the tropics of the western hemisphere causes vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, and labored respiration on ingestion! If large enough quantities are consumed it can even cause death. The leaves may cause dermatitis if handled by someone who is sensitive. The green unripe berries are the culprit, and activated charcoal has proven to be an effective treatment by leaching the triterpenes.

 

In research carried out in India a leaf extract has antimicrobial, fungicidal, and insecticidal effects. Even with the toxicity of the unripe berries, Lantana is used for herbal medicine.

            Leaves: used to treat flu, colds, coughs, fever, yellow fever, dysentery, Jaundice

            Oil: to treat cancers, chicken pox, measles, asthma, ulcers, swellings, eczema, tumors,

            high blood pressure, rheumatism, and malaria

 

A rare Essential Oil is produced through steam distillation of the flowers and leaves. The scent is somewhat reminiscent of Sage dalmatian having a rich green, herbaceous bouquet with a resinous, balsamic undertone. It blends well with Bergamot, Clove, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Patchouli, Clary Sage, Rose, and Jasmine essential oils. In Indian ethnic medicine it has had limited use in treating itchy skin, and minor skin traumas.

 

Even thought the unripe berries are quite toxic, in some areas of the world people do eat the fully ripe, black berries. Upon ripening it is heavily feasted on by birds. There are also other uses…the stems have been used as toothbrushes; the leaves are used to polish wood. The stems and leaves make mulch; and the stems have been used as a fuel for fires for cooking and heating. If handled properly the stems can also be used to produce paper, and the making of baskets.