Poisonous Plants: Chinese Lantern, Deadly Nightshade, Castor Oil Plant
These Plants Can be Deadly - Beware!
DANGER! Chinese Lantern (Physalis), Deadly Nightshade (Atropine) and Castor Oil Plant
Do you know what Chinese Lantern (Physalis), Deadly Nightshade (Atropine) and Castor Oil Plant actually look like? Many people sail through life thinking "This will never happen to me", but, with poisoning by toxic plants, you can never be a hundred per cent sure - have you never brushed against stinging nettles and felt a very unpleasant tingling, stinging rash for several hours afterwards? Of course that could happen even if you know very well what nettles look like: it just needs a moment's inattention whilst you are gardening or walking through a a field or overgrown path.
A few days ago I felt a prickly sensation after putting on my leather gardening gloves. It felt like a small rose thorn. I inspected my thumb but there was nothing to see. During the day and following day it became red and tingly, not agony, but very unpleasant and a bit worrying. Then I remembered that some weeks ago I had brushed against some stinging nettles. Goodness knows how anything got inside the gloves, or how it lasted so long, but at least I solved the mystery.
So staying alert and mindful is probably your best protection, but first you need knowledge. Then, with knowledge comes wisdom.
The Most Important Thing:
LEARN TO IDENTIFY POISONOUS PLANTS
and TREAT THEM WITH CARE AND RESPECT!
Chinese Lantern or Physalis Alkekengi
Poisonous Plant: Chinese Lantern Plant (Strawberry Ground Cherry or Physalis Alkekengi) -
Beware - The attractive bright orange seed pods of Chinese Lanterns are poisonous
The unripe berries of the Chinese Lantern plant can be highly toxic and possibly fatal,although the ripe fruit is edible.
Poisonous Parts: Unripe berries, leaves.
Symptoms: Headache, stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhoea, low temperature, dilated pupils, breathing problems and numbness
Deadly Nightshade or Atropa Belladonna
Poisonous Plant: Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna)
Deadly nightshade is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western Hemisphere.
Children have been poisoned by eating as few as three berries and Ingestion of a single leaf of Belladonna can be fatal to an adult.
It is a perennial plant that grows between 2 and 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) tall. Deadly nightshade or Belladonna has dull, dark green leaves and bell-shaped purple, scented flowers, which bloom from mid-Summer to mid-Autumn.The green berries turn to shiny black as they ripen. They are attractive to children because they are sweet and juicy.
Although toxic to humans and to some animals, horses, rabbits and sheep can eat the leaves and birds feed on the berries without harm.
The poisons contained in deadly nightshade affect the nervous system. Taken in sufficient doses, the deadly poison paralyzes nerve endings in the involuntary muscles of the body, such as the blood vessels, heart and gastrointestinal muscles.
Poisonous Parts: Deadly nightshade, or Atropa belladonna, contains poison in its stems, leaves, berries and roots - all parts of this plant are toxic. The young plants and seeds are especially poisonous, causing nausea, muscle twitches, paralysis; often fatal. The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part.
Symptoms: include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, headaches, confusion and convulsions. As few as 2 ingested berries can kill a child, and 10 to 20 berries would kill an adult. Even handling the plant can cause irritation.
Uses of Atropine from Deadly Nightshade: In the past, Italian women would put the juice of deadly nightshade in their eyes to brighten them by dilating the pupils, which makes the eyes look larger.
Atropine, one of the poisons in deadly nightshade, is still regularly used in opthalmology to dilate pupils .
Ricinus Communis or Castor Oil Plant or Castor Bean
Poisonous Plant Castor Bean or Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus Communis)
The castor bean plant (or Ricinus communis) is widely cultivated throughout the world for its castor oil but the seeds contain a deadly poison--ricin.
It grows well in barren areas and can reach 36 feet (11 meters) in a season. The flowers of the plant are yellowish green, with red centers, the leaves large with toothed edges.
Uses of Ricinus Communis:
Castor oil, which comes from the seeds, is a mild-tasting vegetable oil that is used in many food additives, and flavorings and also as a laxative. In ancient times, the castor bean was used in ointments and, allegedly, Cleopatra applied the oil to the whites of her eyes to brighten them.
Castor bean plant is used in Paclitaxel, a chemotherapy drug, in Sandimmune, a drug for immune suppression, and in Xenaderm, a topical for skin ulcers.
Ricin is present in low levels throughout the plant, but it is largely concentrated in the seed coating. Seed poisonings are rare and usually involve children and pets, but they can be deadly. As few as three seeds, which are green with brown markings, could kill a child who swallows them.
What is Ricin?
Ricin is a toxin that is fatal to humans in extremely small doses. Just 1 milligram is a deadly amount if inhaled or ingested, and only 500 micrograms of the substance would kill an adult if it were injected (CDC). Ricin comes from the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) -- it is present in the mash that is left over after grinding castor beans into oil. It can be delivered as a powder, a mist or a pill.
Ricin is a ribosome-inactivating protein -- it irrevocably damages the ribosomes that carry out protein synthesis in cells. The ribosome-inactivating proteins found in the castor bean plant are extremely powerful, and ricin poisoning can do serious damage to major organs.
Symptoms of Ricin Poisoning:
Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, internal bleeding, and kidney and circulation failure. Many people suffer from an allergic reaction to the dust from the seeds and may experience coughing, muscle aches and difficulty breathing. Exposure to the dust is most common in areas where the beans are processed for commercial use.
There is no known antidote for ricin poisoning.
Exposure to ricin can be fatal if it is inhaled, ingested, or injected. While skin or eye contact with ricin can cause pain, it is typically not fatal in that type of exposure.
The initial symptoms of ricin sickness, which may appear anywhere from three to 12 hours from the time of exposure, include coughing, fever and stomach pains.
If ingested, main symptoms within the first hours are stomach ache, gastroenteritis, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Over the course of the first days after exposure, the victim may experience symptoms of dehydration and low blood pressure.
Ricin inhalation can manifest as lung damage, including pulmonary edema (fluid in and swelling of the lungs).
Other possible symptoms include seizures and problems with the central nervous system.
If the exposure is fatal, the victim most likely will die within five days. If death does not occur in that time, the victim will most likely recover.
There is no known antidote for ricin poisoning
Political Murder by Ricin Poisoning - Georgi Markov, London 1978:
A well-known Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov defected from Bulgaria in 1969, when Bulgaria was still a Communist state.
He settled in England, working as a journalist and broadcaster for BBC World Service and Radio Free Europe. When he broadcast a programme "In Absentia -- Reports" about life in Communist Bulgaria, Bulgarian government officials arranged to silence him permanently. Following death threats two weeks earlier, as Markov stood at a bus stop near Waterloo Bridge one day, he felt a sharp jab in the back of his leg. When he turned, a man apologized for poking him with his umbrella. Three days later, 49 year old Markov was dead.
Autopsy of Georgi Marcov
An autopsy was performed at Wandsworth Public Mortuary on September 12, 1978. Markov's lungs were full of fluid, which coincides with heart failure, his liver was damaged due to blood poisoning, his intestines, lymph nodes, and heart were riddled with small hemorrhages, and his white blood cell count was extremely high. A metal pellet the size of a pin head was removed from Markov's calf. The pellet was hollow in the centre and contained traces of ricin.
This Interesting Video Includes a Commentary About the Death of Georgi Markov from Ricin
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Ten Incredibly Deadly Plants
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Diana Grant