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Concept: Poisonous plants


White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a sporadically toxic plant that causes trembles in livestock and milk sickness in humans that drink tainted milk. The putative toxin in white snakeroot is tremetone and possibly other benzofuran ketones even though it has not been demonstrated in vivo. Toxic white snakeroot was dosed to goats and they developed clinical signs of poisoning, exercise intolerance, significant increases in serum enzyme activities, and histological changes. Tremetone and the other benzofuran ketones were extracted with hexane, the extracts and residues were analyzed for tremetone and dosed to goats at tremetone and benzofuran ketone concentrations similar to the original plant material, however, none of the dosed goats developed the disease. The results demonstrate for the first time that white snakeroot is a potent myotoxin in goats and that other compound(s), that may be lost or modified during the extraction process, could be involved in causing trembles and milk sickness.

Concepts: Toxicology, Meat, Poison, Livestock, Poisonous plants, Ageratina, White Snakeroot, Milk sickness


Alkaloids, nitrogen-containing secondary plant metabolites, are of major interest to veterinary toxicology because of their occurrence in plant species commonly involved in animal poisoning. Based on epidemiological data, the poisoning of cattle and horses by alkaloid-containing plants is a relatively common occurrence in Europe. Poisoning may occur when the plants contaminate hay or silage or when forage alternatives are unavailable. Cattle and horses are particularly at risk of poisoning by Colchicum autumnale (meadow saffron), Conium maculatum (poison hemlock), Datura stramonium (jimson weed), Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail), Senecio spp. (ragwort and groundsel) and Taxus baccata (European yew). This review of poisonous alkaloid-containing plants describes the distribution of these plants, conditions under which poisoning occurs, active toxic principles involved and subsequent clinical signs observed.

Concepts: Poison, Atropine, Medicinal plants, Datura stramonium, Taxus baccata, Conium, Poisonous plants, Equisetum palustre


Accidental ingestion of foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) can cause significant cardiac toxicity. We report a patient who ingested foxglove mistaking it for comfrey and developed refractory ventricular arrhythmias. The patient died despite treatment with digoxin-specific antibody fragments (DSFab) and veno-arterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO).

Concepts: Glycoside, Medicinal plants, Cardiac glycoside, Digitalis, Plantaginaceae, Digitalis purpurea, Poisonous plants


Ricin is one of the most toxic plant toxins known. Its accessibility and relative ease of preparation makes it a potential agent for criminal or bio-terrorist attacks. Detection of ricin from unknown samples requires differentiation of ricin from the highly homologous Ricinus communis agglutinin which is currently not feasible using immunological methods. Here we have developed a simple and sensitive surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensing system for rapid differentiation between ricin and agglutinin done in real time. Both lectins were quantified in a sandwich immunoassay-like setting by capturing with a cross-reactive antibody (R109) binding to both proteins while differentiating by injection of a ricin-specific antibody (R18) in a subsequent enhancement step. The SPR-assay was reproducible and sensitive for different R. communis cultivars, showing no false positive results when other lectins were tested. Quantification and differentiation of both molecules was also demonstrated from a crude castor bean extract and complex matrices. For the first time, we have demonstrated how the closely related lectins can be discerned and quantified in a single assay based on immunological methods. This novel approach delivers crucial information regarding the composition, purity, concentration, and toxicity of suspicious samples containing ricin in less than 30 minutes. Furthermore, we show how enhancement injections during SPR-measurements can be used to determine the ratio of two related proteins independently of the actual protein concentration by comparing normalized enhancement response levels.

Concepts: Protein, Surface plasmon resonance, Castor oil plant, Ricin, Euphorbiaceae, Acalypheae, Poisonous plants


Euphorbia prolifera is a poisonous plant belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family. In our survey on plant secondary metabolites to obtain bioactive substances for the development of new antifungal agents of agriculture, the chemical constituents of the poisonous plant E. prolifera were investigated. This procedure led to the isolation of six new and two known diterpenes. Their structures including absolute configurations, were elucidated based on the extensive NMR spectroscopic data analysis, and the time-dependent density functional theory CD calculations. Biological screenings revealed that these diterpenes possessed antifungal activities against three phytopathogenic fungi. The results of our phytochemical investigation further revealed the chemical components of the poisonous plant E. prolifera and biological screenings implied the extract or bioactive diterpenes from this plant may be regarded as candidate agents of antifungal agrochemicals for crop protection products.

Concepts: Plant, Fungus, Toxicology, Cell wall, Density functional theory, Euphorbiaceae, Kingdom, Poisonous plants


Tibetan ethnomedicine is famous worldwide, both for its high effectiveness and unique cultural background. Many poisonous plants have been widely used to treat disorders in the Tibetan medicinal system. In the present review article, some representative poisonous plant species are introduced in terms of their significance in traditional Tibetan medicinal practices. They are Aconitum pendulum, Strychnos nux-vomica, Datura stramonium and Anisodus tanguticus, for which the toxic chemical constituents, bioactivities and pharmacological functions are reviewed herein. The most important toxins include aconitine, strychnine, scopolamine, and anisodamine. These toxic plants are still currently in use for pain-reduction and other purposes by Tibetan healers after processing.

Concepts: Medicine, Plant, Toxicology, Poison, Solanaceae, Datura, Strychnine tree, Poisonous plants


When livestock are poisoned by plants in a range setting, there is normally more than one poisonous plant in that area. Additionally, many plants contain more than one compound that is toxic to livestock. Frequently, much is known regarding the toxicity of the individual plants and their individual toxins; however, little is known regarding the effect of co-exposure to multiple toxic plants or even the effect of multiple toxins from an individual plant. In this review, we discuss some basic principles of mixture toxicology with a focus on our recent research wherein we examined the effect of co-administering multiple plant toxins from the same plant and the effect of co-administration of two different poisonous plants, each with different types of toxins. As combined intoxications are likely common, this information will be useful in further developing management recommendations for ranchers, and in designing additional experiments to study the toxicity of multiple poisonous plants to livestock.

Concepts: Plant, Toxicology, Toxicity, Poison, Toxin, Livestock, Poisonous plants


I read with interest the article of Cho and Colleagues (2012) entitled: “Neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activities of the methanolic extract of Rhus verniciflua Stokes” Food and Chemical Toxicology 50(6), 1940-1945. This article is quite interesting and the authors should be complimented for the great amount of work they have done. The purpose of this letter is to call attention to the need for some clarification on the name of the plant described in this article.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Urushiol, Toxicodendron, Poisonous plants


Ricinus communis L. (Rc), of Euphorbiaceae family is a widespread plant in tropical regions and it is used in traditional medicines as an antifertility agent in India and different parts of the world.

Concepts: Geography, Tropics, Economics, World, Asia, Castor oil plant, Euphorbiaceae, Poisonous plants


An Italian epidemiological study based on the human Poison Control Centre of Milan (Centro Antiveleni di Milano (CAV)) data related to domestic animal poisoning by exposure to plants, was carried out in collaboration with the Veterinary Toxicology Section of the University of Milan. It encompasses a 12-year period, from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2011. Calls related to toxic plants accounted for 5.7 per cent of total inquiries (2150) received by CAV. The dog was the most commonly poisoned species (61.8 per cent of calls) followed by the cat (26 per cent). Little information was recorded for other species. Most exposures (73.8 per cent) resulted in mild to moderate clinical signs. The outcome was reported in only 53.7 per cent of cases, and fatal poisoning accounted for 10.6 per cent of these cases. Glycoside, alkaloid, oxalate, toxalbumin, saponin, terpene and terpenoid-containing plants were recorded and found to be responsible for intoxication. Cycas revoluta, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Hydrangea macrophylla, Nerium oleander, Rhododendron species and Prunus species were the plants most frequently involved. Epidemiological data from this Italian survey provide useful information on animal exposure to plants and confirm the importance of plants as causative agents of animal poisoning.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Plant, Poison, Italy, Milan, Nerium oleander, Cardiac glycoside, Poisonous plants