Monday, August 1, 2011

Poisonous plants – beware!


Pulp of the fruits of Cabo Negro is extreme itchy.
In early times, the pulp was used to defend forts from
invaders by pouring into the moat crushed fresh
fruits.
When harvesting, the fruits are first boiled before
extracting the edible part popularly known as kaong.

Abe V Rotor

There are hundreds – probably thousands - of plants that are injurious to health of humans and animals. The most classical is hemlock, the poison that killed the great Greek philosopher, Socrates. We do not have hemlock in the Philippines but there are species that are as poisonous. Here is a list of the most common poisonous plants found in gardens, parks, fields, and even wastelands.

Tubang bakod (Jatropha curcas) – the seeds look and taste like peanut. They are extremely poisonous. It causes drastic diarrhea.

Castor bean or tangan-tangan (Ricinus communis) – Seeds contain one of the most poisonous substances in nature – ricinin. This is the reason castor oil purgative is no longer recommended. Purified ricinin is reportedly used in the manufacture of lethal weapons.

Priwinkle or chichirica (Catharanthus roseus) – While it is refuted for its curative power for cancer and diabetes, it causes abortion, and reportedly the cause of death of grazing cattle.

Oleander or Adelfa (Nerium oleander) – The bark and leaves are poisonous. The poison consists of glucosides allied to digitalin sometimes referred to as oleandrin, rosaginin, neriin, oleander-digitalein, which act on the heart and even in quite small amounts may cause death. There are cases children choke after putting into their mouth the stem or any part of the plant. The poison causes muscle paralysis.

Kamagsa-tagalis (Rourea erecta), also known as palo santo (Spanish) or gikos-gikos – The wood of the root is pounded, boiled, and mixed with the food of dogs in order to kill them. The fruit contain an active poison, a glucoside. It cannot be explained why the poison does not affect herbivores like guinea pig, but is effective on carnivores.

Derris (Derris eliptica) – The roots contain an active principle known as rotenone, with a formula C23H22O6, a potent insecticide, which also kills fish and animals, including grazing cattle. According to Dr. W.H. Brown, Derris roots have been long associated with suicidal and murder cases.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) – Hydrocyanic acid resides in the bark of the tuber or enlarged root, so that it is important to remove the bark before cooking. And when cooking, remove the pot cover to allow the poison to escape as cyanogas.

Lima Bean or patani (Phaseolus lunatus) – When I was a farmhand I witnessed a case of goat poisoning after the stray animal had ingested leaves of this legume whose seed is rich in carbohydrate and protein. The belly was greatly distended, and while the animal was agonizing, the owner had it slaughtered. In my research I did not encounter any poisonous substance in Phaseolus. Could it be a case of overeating or allergic reaction?

Can you recall the ending of the movie, Blue Lagoon, after the couple and their son had eaten some kind of poisonous berries? Here is the then rule when you are not sure of the plant - or anything that appeals to you as food. Do not eat it. This is especially true with mushrooms. There is no antidote of poisonous Amanita.

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Living with Folk Wisdom,
AVR, UST Manila

1 comment:

emmie said...

thank you sir for this information. i really learned a lot. i will never forget the word "do not eat" if i don't know anything about a plant or food. :)

-Emmie Sapitan 3ca3