19 December 2012

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

A few days after I posted about poinsettias, I realized that I didn't address an issue which I wanted to and other might want to know about - are poinsettias poisonous?  The answer is no, generally speaking.  Being Christmastime, a lot has been published recently about this topic, and everyone agrees that it is not.  That doesn't mean it's completely safe.  Poinsettias, as well as all other euphorbias excrete a milky sap, called latex, when cut.  This latex can be an irritant to the skin and cause damage if you get it in your eyes.

So why do more than half of us believe this?  In 1919, a two-year old child died and the cause was incorrectly determined to be poinsettia poisoning.  If someone does managed to eat a number of leaves of the plant, there will probably be an upset stomach and vomiting, but apparently they taste so bad, it seems like it might be too difficult to eat enough to do any damage.  A 50-lb. child would have to eat more than 1.25 lbs. of poinsettia bracts (500-600 leaves) to excede the experimental doses, according to the POISINDEX Information Service.

So, there's no need to worry about eating the leaves.  Having had other euphorbias in the past, my biggest fear was of the latex, but everything will be fine, if you don't get it in your eyes.  Merry Christmas everyone!

(source: snopes.com)

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