Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beware of poisonous plants!

Beware of poisonous plants!
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday


Plants being rooted on a place must have defences against animals.  Through evolution plants developed thorns, and other structures, but the most successful means is chemical protection. Tannin emerged earlier than complex molecules like polyacetylenes. Plant poisons range from mild irritation to instant death.  The most poisonous is ricin from castor bean. Hemlock is associated with history - Socrates, father of Philosophy was condemned to die by drinking hemlock. But the most poisonous of all, diving millions to slow death, is nicotine from tobacco. Poisons in plants also used in many pharmacological preparation - including addict forming drugs. Plants that are unknown should be treated with utmost caution and children must be properly warned.     



Lipang Kalabaw: Don't touch the plant. It is covered
with tiny trichomes that impart an itchy substance.
Wash affected skin immediately with soap. First aid is
to apply vinegar or lemon.

Yellow Bell: Don't allow children to play with the plant.
Its milky sap may cause paralysis of the pharynx muscles
resulting to asphyxiation. Adelfa has a similar property.



Be careful with wild mushroom. Consult the local folks.  If you are not
 sure, don't eat it.  There is no antidote to mushroom poisoning.

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 C23 H22 O6,  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? 

The seed of botong, anmd also that of bitaog or palomaria (Callophylum inophylum) is poisonous.  There are plants that are used as herbal medicine but have dangerous overdose effect. That's why caution should be undertaken when using seeds of mahogany, bark of bignay, and leaves of neem tree. .

Can you recall the ending of the movie, Blue Lagoon, after the couple and their son had eaten a 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 known antidote of poisonous Amanita. ~

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There is no seaweed known to be poisonous, but Caulerpa (lato or arusip) contains caulepin which can cause dizziness when taken too much.  It has also sedative effect. By the way, there is a species of wild Caulerpa introduced into the Mediterranean and has vastly spread out on the ocean floor killing fish and other marine organisms.It is listed among the renegade organisms - introduced organisms that went out of control. It is likewise true with animal organisms such as the golden kuhol.  Introduced as food in the sixties it is now a major pest of rice crop.  


 Palomaria (Callophylum innophylum) - Seed has high oil content, poisonous  
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       Plumeria (commonly known as frangipani). Contact with the milky latex may irritate eyes and skin. Mango tree – Mango peel and sap contains urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis in susceptible people. Solanum nigrum (commonly known as black nightshade). All parts of the plant except the ripe fruit contain the toxic glycoalkaloid solanine.
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