The Effects of Poisonous Plants
A poison can be described as a substance which destroys life or injures health. With plants that are poison we might tend to think of a rapidly acting condition or effect acting within minutes to mere hours and this is true with most of the familiar poisonous plants. However, there are some plants where the poison works slowly and insidiously, gradually killing off vital cells in the body until finally, the deadly effect is made manifest.
Not all of us will react to the effects of poison in our system in the same way. For one thing, each person's sensitivity to poisons is different. We need to take into account a person's health, whether it is poor or excellent . If a person is in poor health, very often the liver and/or kidneys would be the first concern, because the body is less able to detoxify or eliminate the poisonous substances.
The other problem is the amount consumed and the severity of the symptoms, obviously, the more of the poison that has been ingested, the more severe and worse the symptoms.
We also need to consider the person. A baby for instance, would be harmed by even a very small amount, simply because of its size and weight. Also, a baby has not lived long enough for the immune system to try to fight off the effects of poison. A large adult however, could consume a small amount and never be affected.
Age is another factor. A young person may recover more rapidly or, carry the damage caused by the poisonous substance for the rest of his life. The outcome depends mostly on the type of damage caused by the poison and in this case, very little upon the individual person.
We also have to consider the fact that certain species of a plant will differ in the amount of poison that it contains. The weight of the plant material does not always contain the same amount of poisonous ingredients. The poison also may be more concentrated in the fruit, seeds, leaves, stems or roots.
Also, take into consideration the growing season which has low to high levels. Weather conditions during the growing season or whether the plant is in its' dormant stage. And, different strains of the same species of a plant may have widely different amounts of poisonous substances in them.
When discussing poisonous plants we can use criteria of known and proved cases that have been properly documented, even though done many years ago and even perhaps under odd circumstances of death, or sever poisoning . This also includes verbal communication from one person to another through experience and association. We can also consider scientific data concerning known toxic substances which occur in plants and also, we can use our common sense .
Poison plants are found all around us, not just in the woods somewhere. Inside and around our homes there are houseplants, many landscaping flowers and shrubs are poisonous. Plants imported from other countries.
Many people simply do not know what is poisonous and what isn't, especially when we hear of mountain folks using plants such as poke weed/root for food and tonics and everything in between. Constantly I have people tell me how they as children used to drink comfrey tea or plantain leaf tea on a regular basis or how they used to eat comfrey leaves or plantain leaves in their salads. I have people telling me how they have used or heard to use hydrangea for kidney and gallstones. People tell me they use lily of the valley, foxglove ( digitalis), Horse chestnut and the list goes on and on. This back to nature , worship of “natural” food has led many people to seek out wild plants as a source of wholesome nourishment. Nothing, and I emphasize, nothing is more dangerous than the ignorant person who is armed only with word of mouth descriptions and hearsay about certain plants. Such people lack the basic country lore which enables a person to recognize one plant from another. Even seasoned herbalists, like me can get confused with plants that they don't use on a regular basis. Even touching some poisonous plants can bring on an unpleasant reaction. The old saying of watch what the animals or birds eat and if they eat it, it is safe for us is not true.
“Liberated” people are to blame for much of “craze spreads” These type of people read of the effects of a certain plant in a newspaper or magazine, try it out and then pass it along to others in their circle. Many of these plants have a wide range of serious side effects and can frequently inflict permanent damage to the body or mind, destroying liver and kidney function.
Nearly all the poisonous plants belong to the category known as “secondary compounds”, which means that they are not substances essential to life itself.
Nothing is produced in nature without a reason. Some plants are for human consumption, some for animals only and some just for humans to enjoy such as color. Many plants such as poke berries, sumac, black walnut are beautiful dyes for fabrics and wool.
Those that sell herbals in any form, be it in teas, tonics, lotions or whatever, have a serious responsibility to the public to sell herbs and plants that are safe and not toxic or poisonous. These people especially should EDUCATE THEMSELVES about what they are selling, because, once the spark of life is extinguished, it cannot be rekindled.