Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Plant Poisoning

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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What is plant poisoning?

Some types of plants naturally contain chemicals (toxins) that can harm you. Other plants may become poisonous from being sprayed with pesticides.

  • Some common plants are poisonous if eaten

  • Avoid eating unfamiliar plants you find outdoors

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them to remove pesticides and chemicals

  • People can die of plant poisoning, but most people recover

Call for emergency medical assistance (911 in most areas of the United States) if you or someone else may have eaten poisonous plants and seems very sick, or call the poison control center for advice (1-800-222-1222 in the United States). The World Health Organization provides a world directory of poison centers.

What plants can poison you?

These plants are very poisonous and can kill you:

  • Castor beans

  • Jequirity beans

  • Poison hemlock

  • Water hemlock

  • Oleander

  • Foxglove

Many other plants cause less serious poisoning.

What are the symptoms of plant poisoning?

Castor beans, jequirity beans, and water hemlock may cause:

  • Severe throwing up

  • Diarrhea (frequent, loose, watery poop) that can be bloody

  • Confusion

  • Seizures (when your body moves or jerks out of your control)

  • Coma (when you're unconscious and can't be woken up)

  • Death

Hemlock poisoning can cause symptoms within 15 minutes:

  • Dry mouth

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Shaking without meaning to (tremors)

  • Sweating

  • Seizures

  • Muscle weakness

Oleander, foxglove, and lily of the valley (which is less toxic) cause:

  • Throwing up

  • Diarrhea (frequent, loose, watery poop)

  • Confusion

  • Abnormal heartbeat

How do doctors treat plant poisoning?

Treatment depends on what plant poisoned you.

Doctors will:

  • Have you drink lots of fluids

  • If you can't keep drinks down, give you IV fluids (into your vein)

  • Empty your stomach using a small tube through the nose or mouth, if needed

  • Give you specific treatments depending on the type of poison

  • Wash your skin with soap and water if a plant toxin has irritated it

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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