Some poisonous plants and mushrooms
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)
Henbane is a herb that has been used for a very long time both as a medicinal plant and for witchcraft. It contains very potent and poisonous alkaloids, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which are similar to atropine, both in structure and effects.
Eating the plant causes dryness in the mouth, thirst, enlarged pupils, facial redness, fever, palpitations and hallucinations. These symptoms can last for several days.
Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
Autumn crocus received its name since the seed-pods appear in the spring, the leaves evolve in the summer and then finally a crocus-like flower blooms in the autumn. It is mainly a garden plant.
Two to six hours after ingestion, a burning sensation is felt in the mouth, followed by strong thirst, irritation of the mucous membranes, stomach pains, colic and bloody faeces. The poison is called colchicine and is an alkaloid.
Daphne (Daphne mezereum)
Daphne is a bush that grows both wild and cultivated in gardens and parks in Sweden. Flowers appear on bare branches in the spring. The pink blossoms are followed by leaves and then by bright red berries in the late summer.
Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)
In Sweden, tobacco is mainly cultivated in botanical gardens. Most cases of poisoning are with children who have eaten tobacco products such as cigarettes or snuff.
The active substance, nicotine, induces vomiting which can counteract severe poisoning. Other symptoms are paleness and palpitations, possibly after a few hours.
Through smoking many people voluntarily poison themselves with nicotine. This is mainly because nicotine is addictive. Nicotine is a chemical substance that has both positive and negative effects on the body. The positive ones are that nicotine relieves anxiety and worry as well as improving the ability to think. The negative effects are that the blood vessels contract which results in reduced oxygenation of the body. Nicotine is therefore being used to develop new pharmaceutical products that are free of damaging effects. It is important to understand that by smoking, the body also absorbs many dangerous substances which include some that cause cancer.
The poisonous substance mezerin, causes severe irritation of the skin and mucous membranes and can even cause damage to the kidneys. Eating the berries induces stomach problems, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Monk's hood (Aconitum-species)
Monk’s hood is above all a stately garden plant, but it also grows wild in northern Sweden. It has been used in medicine and within traditional medicine as a poison against lice and other vermin but also against wolves. The plant contains the alkaloid, aconitine, which is a powerful neuro toxin.
The symptoms are a burning feeling in the mouth and throat, vomiting, mood changes, breathing constraints and paralysis.
In Sweden there are many kinds of Amanita mushrooms apart from fly agaric (Amanita muscaria). The poison in fly agaric consists of some alkaloids: muscarine, muscimol and ibot enic acid. These are toxic but seldom lethal and there are many different symptoms related to poisoning.
Two of the most lethal Amanita mushrooms are destroying angel (Amanita virosa) and death cap (Amanita phalloides). Cases of poisoning where these are involved are often extremely serious. The poison in them consists of peptides: amanita toxin and phallovtoxin.
The symptoms are stomach pains, diarrhoea and vomiting which occurs after 8-12 hours. This is followed by a quiet period of “recovery” before the symptoms of the destructive effects on the liver caused by the poison begin to be noticed. These can be pain in the liver, bleeding in the intestines and stomach and loss of consciousness. Death may occur after 4-6 days. Poisoning by death cap or destroying angel can be treated with silymarin, if treatment is given in the early stages, before damage to the liver becomes too extensive.