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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Is Mistletoe Really Poisonous?

By November 29, 2013

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Mistletoe (Kenraiz)Kissing under the mistletoe is a holiday tradition. Eating it is not, because mistletoe has a reputation as being poisonous. Yet many of us know someone who ate a berry or two as a kid and lived to tell the tale, so just how toxic is mistletoe?

The answer is: it depends on the type of mistletoe and what part you eat. There are several species of mistletoe. The Phoradendron species contain a toxin called phoratoxin, which can cause blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood pressure changes, and even death. The Viscum species of mistletoe contain a slightly different cocktail of chemicals, including the poisonous alkaloid tyramine, which produce essentially the same symptoms. Although mistletoe has therapeutic uses, eating any part of the plant (particularly the leaves or berries) or drinking a tea from the plant can result in sickness and possibly death. Unlike the holiday poinsettia, which has a bad reputation yet probably won't do more than make you feel sick if you eat it, mistletoe ingestion warrants a call to Poison Control and immediate medical attention.

Poisonous Holiday Plants | Poinsettia pH Paper


April 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm
(1) jody belt says:

cant find clemson extenson papers on line. have mistle on my oak and cant get rid of, jody

October 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm
(2) well that's unfortunate says:

researched The Celtic religion during Anglo-Saxon era and found that apparently they believed drinking mistletoe would cure for all poisons (yikes! if only they knew…)

December 26, 2012 at 12:35 am
(3) jayci says:

wow! thats the wierdest thing ive heard thats cool are you a teacher?

December 4, 2013 at 6:42 am
(4) Luke Annett says:

wowza! no more kisses, for me….haha

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