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Start > Resource centre > Articles > Poisons Part 1

Many trees and plants are poisonous, and a hazard for inquisitive youngsters who are always putting things in their mouths. Naturally-occurring poisons are concentrated in seeds and berries but leaves, flowers, sap and roots can contain a considerable amount. As a general rule, unripe fruits are more dangerous than ripe ones.

The first thing a doctor will need to know is what and how much of the poisonous plant was eaten, when it was eaten, and what part of the plant was consumed. They will also need to know how old the patient is and whether they have already vomited after eating the plant. If possible, save what remains of the plant that was eaten and let the doctor or hospital see it for identification purposes as there are specific antidotes to certain plant poisons. Garden plants that cause problems include laurel leaves and their black-currant-looking berries, both of which contain derivatives of cyanide.

Lily of the Valley flowers and berries contain a chemical which affects the rhythm of the heart, but fortunately the poison is poorly absorbed so its effects are rarely seen. Other common culprits include Laburnum, whether in the form of seeds or bright yellow flowers, which contains a chemical that poisons in the same way as nicotine; wisteria pods, which bring on gastroenteritis, and lupin pods, which cause vomiting and convulsions. Aconite (monkshood) is the most poisonous plant in Europe and it can kill.

Teacher: Michael
Many articles taken from 'A word with the doctor', by Dr. John Windsor.


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