December 16, 2015

Tennessee Poison Center offers a quick summary on the dangers of holiday plants

Along with the hustle and bustle of the season come the displays of the seasonal foliage. How toxic are our holiday plants?  Donna Seger, M.D., Medical Director of the Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, offers this summary of some of the dangers of holiday plants.

  • Poinsettia, contrary to popular perceptions, is not a poisonous plant. Small ingestions rarely cause symptoms, although large ingestions might cause GI upset.
  • Christmas trees may cause dermal irritation or injury to the digestive system if ingested.
  •  Mistletoe, a semi-parasitic plant, has numerous variations. Some varieties can be toxic to the heart or nervous system. GI upset is often associated with the most common variety found in the United States, Phoradendron. A simple solution: wrap fresh mistletoe in fine netting to prevent droppings from falling to the ground and being ingested.
  •  American holly may cause minor GI symptoms in small ingestions. Large ingestions could cause mild drowsiness.
  •  Ivy contains calcium oxalate crystals, which cause such severe oral irritation when bitten that ingestion of even small quantities is difficult.
  • Christmas roses contain cardiac glycosides that lead to rapid heartbeat when ingested. Some forms can also cause delirium and seizures.
  • Christmas cactus, a tropical cactus with no spines, is non-poisonous and produces no symptoms.