It is easy to be deceived by medicinal plants…especially when one part may be edible while another is poisonous.
Plants are such a wonderful gift to heal yourself holistically. Plants like Chamomile, Peppermint, Lavender, and Plantain are powerful holistic plants that are scientifically proven to treat ailments. We know these plants are very well-known, they’re in your tea, supplements, and your garden. Due to this, we assume most “healing” plants we have heard of are safe to help heal ourselves. That’s not the case so here are some medicinal plants that you should stay away from.
Medicinal Plants that Are Actually Dangerous
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), a Class B noxious weed, is a widespread toxic biennial plant in the Carrot Family often found in open sunny areas, fields, vacant lots, and on roadsides.
Eating even a small amount of any part of this plant can kill people, livestock, and wildlife. Hemlock was used to numb surgery pain for over 1,000 years. Despite serious safety concerns, some still use hemlock leaves, roots, and seeds to make medicine.
Here’s how you can identify Poison-hemlock: The plant’s stems have reddish or purple spots and streaks, are not hairy and are hollow. The leaves are bright green, fern-like, finely divided, toothed on edges, and have a strong musty odor when crushed. Flowers are tiny, white, and arranged in small, umbrella-shaped clusters on the ends of branched stems.
Mandrakes (Mandragora officinarum) contain the alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine. These produce hallucinogenic effects as well as narcotic, emetic, and purgative results that can be dangeroys. Blurred vision, dry mouth, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are common initial symptoms.
The plant’s poison can easily lead to death. It was used as a sleep-inducing and pain-killing plant for many hundreds of years.
Here’s how you can identify Mandrake: Mandrake has a ground-hugging rosette of large shiny green leaves and densely-packed mauve or violet five-petalled flowers 4 to 5cm across. The fruits, which are initially green, ripen and turn yellow or orange and look like tiny egg-shaped tomatoes.
The leaf, flowering tops, and seeds are used to make medicine. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) contains poisonous chemicals, particularly in high doses. Don’t confuse henbane, sometimes called “fetid nightshade” or “stinking nightshade,” with bittersweet nightshade or deadly nightshade. Henbane has been used for stomach pain, stomach ulcers, muscle cramps, and other conditions despite its deadly poison.
To identify Henbane look out for the leaves that are coarsely-toothed to shallowly lobed and pubescent. Its flowers bloom along the long racemes, and are brownish-yellow with a purple center and purple; veins. The plant has a foul odor.
Ephedra has a long history of medicinal use in China and India to treat colds, fever, headaches, coughing, wheezing, and other conditions. Supplements containing the plant are banned in the U.S. after being marketed for weight loss. This is because this plant can cause heart attack, seizure, stroke, and sudden death.
The plant can be easily identified. The Ephedras are leafless desert shrubs with jointed, green stems forming in whorls at nodes along the stalk. Unlike other naked seeds, the Ephedras lack resin canals.
Acontinum or commonly called Monkshood is used as an ingredient in some commonly used herbal preparations for stroke and heart failure, diarrhea, and diabetes, respectively. This plant and the herbal preparations are dangerous. Monkshood can cause cardiac toxicity from consumption of the herbal preparation manifesting as ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation and eventually leading to death.
Here’s how you can identify the plant. Monkshood is a distinctive-looking wildflower borne on shoulder-high erect and sturdy stems. The common name for this plant comes from the hood-like sepal on the flower. The hood is thought to look like an old-fashioned cowl worn by monks.
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) has long been used as a painkiller for soothing mild aches and pains, a mild sedative/relaxant, and an expectorant for treating catarrh and coughs, as a digestive, and even for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and in lipstick. Using any part of the poppy, in any way, can be life-threatening.
Opium is highly addictive which is why medicines made with it caused the Opiate crisis in America. Opium overdose is well known to cause respiratory and central nervous system depression, which may lead to death.
This is how you identify Opium poppies. The plant has lobed or toothed silver-green foliage and bears blue-purple or white flowers. The seeds are borne in a spherical capsule topped by a disk formed by the stigmas of the flower; the seeds escape from pores beneath the disk when the capsule is shaken by the wind.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is used to treat pain, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual period problems, swelling, and itchy skin disorders in homeopathic medicine. It can cause a painful itchy rash and if ingested is harmful, in some cases it’s deadly. This is due to the oil in the poison ivy; it affects the lungs and can cause serious breathing problems leading to death. The rash-inducing oil may cause swelling and closing of the throat.
The plant can be identified by the leaves. There are only three leaves which have led to the old saying “Leaves of three, let it be.” The leaves will have jagged edges and pointy tips. The two side leaves branch directly off from the stem, while the middle leaf is larger with a protruding stem. The two side leaves can also resemble a mitten, having one defined, segregated point similar to the ‘thumb’ in a mitten.
All of these plants are well known for being used for pharmaceutical as well as holistic medicine. While some of these plants are still actively being used they can be deadly. It’s important to be aware of the risks of many medications but plants don’t come with a warning label printed on the back so it’s important to do your research before.