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Poisons of Plant Origin


  1. Deon van der Merwe BVSc, MSc, PhD

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat149

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

van der Merwe, D. 2009. Poisons of Plant Origin. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. Kansas State University, Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, Manhattan, Kansas, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Almost all of us are in frequent contact with plants that share the places where we live and work as cultivated house and garden plants, weeds and other vegetation. We also routinely ingest plants as food, food contaminants or herbal medicines. Since many plant species produce potentially toxic compounds, it is not surprising that plant poisoning is a frequently encountered, and in some instances, serious health hazard. Wide variation in the toxic dose of plant material, due to differences in toxic-compound potency and concentrations in plant tissues, makes the outcome of exposures to toxic plants highly variable. Most exposures do not lead to poisoning, but under certain conditions severe disease or death can occur. It is a significant challenge for healthcare workers to differentiate between exposures that require immediate and aggressive treatment from those that are benign. Although a vast number of plant species are potentially toxic, plant poisoning can be classified into groups based on toxic compounds shared between plant species and common toxicity syndromes. Using this approach, some of the most common and important plant poisonings are discussed in terms of the plants that are typically involved, the toxic agents and their mechanisms of action, risk factors, toxicity syndrome descriptions and suggested management strategies.


  • toxic plant;
  • poisonous plant;
  • plant poisoning;
  • phytotoxin;
  • phytochemical;
  • herbal