Monday, November 30, 2015

The Truth about Poinsettias

For many years, the Poinsettia has been classified as a very poisonous plant.  For this reason, many people avoid having this beautiful plant in their home.  However, studies have shown that the plant may not be as dangerous as we thought. 

The misconception about the Poinsettia began in 1919 when an officer in the US Army experienced the tragic loss of his two-year old son.  The cause of death is unknown but it is suspected the child ate some of a Poinsettia plant. The news spread rapidly and has since placed the Poinsettia on the dangerous plant list.  
Every year, poison centers receive many calls beginning in November and ending in January after their child or pet have eaten the plant and no fatalities occur.  Researchers decided to study the toxic effects of the plant to determine its true threat.  The researchers fed large quantities of the plant to rats and tracked human exposures.  After the rats experienced no symptoms and human exposures resulted in no serious effects, the Poinsettia was removed from the list of extremely toxic plants.

If you still aren’t sure about the dangers the Poinsettia poses, here is a little example to show the toxicity of the plant.  If a child weighing 50 lbs. were to eat 500 or 1 ¼ lbs. of leaves from the plant they may expect to experience some stomach discomfort to include nausea and vomiting.  However, if that same child were to eat 500 or 1 ¼ lbs. of lettuce leaves, some nausea and vomiting may occur as well.
People with allergies to latex and atopic eczema should avoid the plant due to the plants latex properties and potential skin irritation.

As for pets, the ASPCA concluded pets that eat the Poinsettia might also experience some stomach upset.  Animals’ bodies would treat the plant as a foreign body and could reject it by vomiting
Avoid serving Poinsettia salads this holiday season, but you are free to enjoy the beautiful plant in your home without the fear of being poisoned by it.  If you have questions call the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.  Remember the people who answer the phones at the poison center are pharmacists, nurses, doctors or other medical professionals, and are specially trained and certified in the field of toxicology.