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Dangerous Herbs

Helmet Flowers Cultivated as garden plants in the United States, helmet flowers bloom a brilliant indigo blue in late summer. Long considered dangerous in Europe, helmet flowers are poisonous to humans and if eaten may cause nausea, irregular heartbeat, or death.

They are also known as wolfsbane.

The Foxglove plant
The common foxglove is grown for decorative and medicinal purposes. The flowers contain glycosides (chemicals that affect heartbeat and pulse), which can be extracted from the leaves and used to regulate and strengthen a person’s heartbeat. However, if plant materials containing glycosides are directly consumed by humans, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and heartbeat and pulse abnormalities can result. If consumed in large enough quantities, glycosides can cause convulsions and death.

Nightshade All parts of the belladonna, or nightshade, Atropa belladonna, are poisonous. The drug atropine, used to dilate the pupils of the eyes, is one of several narcotics extracted from its leaves and roots.

depending on the variety of bush. weakness. This may be accompanied by trembling. difficulty in breathing.Native to Eurasia Medicinal Herbs . Solanine is also found in potato sprouts and the green spots of some potatoes. and rotten potatoes should not be used as forage for livestock. or paralysis. Potato sprouts should be removed before using the tubers for food. Baneberry Found in the northern United States and southern Canada.Potato vines. When the berries form they are white. The ripe berries are the least toxic part of these plants but may be deadly under some circumstances. Its flowers are white and bloom in spring. red. sprouts. the baneberry grows in wooded terrain. The berries are poisonous if eaten but rarely cause fatalities. is cultivated for its attractive flowers. a perennial flowering plant. Hellebore The hellebore. A toxic dose of any of these will usually result in severe digestive upset. solanine.The foliage and unripe fruit of most nightshades contain dangerous levels of a steroid alkaloid. Some species of hellebore can produce severe facial deformities in the offspring of animals that eat the plant. or black.

and to mask odors). This method of interrogation is common in popular fiction. digestive upset. across the floor as an insect repellent. See Anesthesia. disinfectant. and stings. fuzzy leaves. santolina was used as a strewning herb (it was spread. Scopolamine is used medically to dilate the eye. also featherfoil. the Roman naturalist. contains active toxic principles. Overdoses of the plant cause severe purging. and to prevent motion sickness. Feverfew. to depress the central nervous system. it is often inadmissible in court. an aromatic herb that was once relied on as a traditional herbal remedy for fevers and gynecological problems. The plant spreads aggressively and can become weedy. Because its leaves have a strong fragrance. claimed that wine in which santolina had soaked was an antidote for snake bites. The plant. Feverfew is a member of the large composite flowers family. which effect makes it valuable as a sedative and preanesthetic. especially the roots. Mayapple was used by the Native Americans in treating various disorders. Scopolamine's effect on the central nervous system also makes it useful as a “truth serum. because some members of the genus are believed to speed the healing of cuts. and because evidence so obtained is unreliable. it was traditionally planted around . or strewn. bites. but cannot be used legally in the United States without consent. the flowers grow in pink or purple spikes. Santolina The unique color and low habit of santolina species have made them popular as hedges for dividing sections in traditional English gardens. They are also used in herbal wreaths and potpourri. From the Middle Ages until the 18th century.” by means of which uncooperative persons may be forced to answer questions.Woolly Betony Woolly betony is also called lamb’s ears because of its soft. The flowers and seeds were used to treat ringworm and intestinal worms. and vomiting. The genus is also known as woundwort. Pliny. A widely cultivated ornamental plant. It has been shown to cause abnormalities in dividing plant and animal cells and has been used both by horticulturists for inducing desirable plant mutations and by medical researchers in attempting to control various types of cancer.

Although herbalists still recommend feverfew for treating colds. The plant's yellow flowers contain stunning. used as a spice known as cilantro. twining vines and is grown for a variety of ornamental and practical uses. vegetable oils. it is primarily grown for its ornamental value as a garden plant. also known as American bittersweet. Oil that is extracted from the seed is used in the preparation of liqueurs and is a medicine for abdominal discomfort. . primarily for its aromatic leaves and seeds. SPICES Coriander Cultivators grow coriander. dyes. . and extracts for medicines. anise. The seeds contain an oil that is extracted and used in the preparation of some liqueurs. Certain species of bittersweet produce a fine-grained wood suitable for carving. an herb related to carrots.houses to purify the air. are a common ingredient in Latin American and Asian cooking. parsely. The leaves. Bittersweet Celastrus scandens. indigestion. while others provide tea. and diarrhea. belongs to a family of woody shrubs with climbing. and dill. crimson-covered seeds.

while the outer skin of the seed is dried to make a spice called mace. The seeds are harvested and dried to produce the spice nutmeg. Brazil. and the West Indies for its timber and seeds. .Basil Sage Nutmeg Seed and Fruit The nutmeg plant is an evergreen tree cultivated throughout southern Asia.

which if dried while immature and green. the black pepper has been used to flavor foods for over 3000 years. . The black pepper plant produces a single-seeded fruit called a peppercorn. black pepper. produces the spice.Vanilla Black Pepper Plant Native to India and long considered the world’s most important spice.

A toxic dose of any of these will usually result in severe digestive upset. and medicines. soaps. weakness. and cinnamon sticks are made from the tightly rolled and dried bark of the stems. Potato vines. A cinnamon farmer typically strips the bark off the stems of a cinnamon tree and collects the calyx from the base of each yellowish-brown cinnamon berry (shown at center). . Potato sprouts should be removed before using the tubers for food. Pineapple Mint . Solanine is also found in potato sprouts and the green spots of some potatoes. Fragrant cinnamon oil results from distilling the bark and calyx. The ripe berries are the least toxic part of these plants but may be deadly under some circumstances. solanine. or paralysis.Cinnamon The spice known as cinnamon has been cultivated for centuries and is a popular aromatic and flavoring ingredient in foods. sprouts. and rotten potatoes should not be used as forage for livestock. This may be accompanied by trembling.The foliage and unripe fruit of most nightshades contain dangerous levels of a steroid alkaloid. MINT FAMILY . difficulty in breathing.

and for its well-known genus. sweet marjoram is also favored by herb gardeners for its aesthetic qualities. . and pennyroyal. white flowers. and basil. These and other members of the family. sage. The mint genus itself contains many well-known cultivated species: peppermint. These include marjoram and oregano. add flavor to meats and stews. Members of the mint family often contain aromatic oils. Wild hyssop flowers are bluish purple. The leaves were once used as a medicinal herb tea for pulmonary or catarrhal disorders.Pineapple Mint Mint (plant). Its flowers and leaves. marjoram has been popular in cooking and as a medicinal aid for thousands of years. and many (often of Mediterranean origin) are cultivated as culinary herbs. but cultivated varieties may have red or white flowers. common name for a family of woody or herbaceous flowering plants of worldwide distribution. such as lavender and shellflower. thyme. rosemary. A highly decorative plant that grows small. Sweet Marjoram Sweet marjoram is an herb of the mint family known for its aromatic fragrance. are grown as ornamentals. either fresh or dried and ground. Native to Europe and Asia. spearmint. The aromatic oil extracted from the leaves is sometimes used in liqueurs. savory.

Thyme Thyme. tubular. used for seasoning. The rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region and is widely cultivated in dry soils for its aromatic. who used it for embalming. of the mint family. poultry. Oils extracted from the leaves are used in flavorings for meat. and sausage. a member of the mint family producing colorful. Thyme oil is used to scent soaps and perfumes. Sage The sage. common name for an evergreen shrub. Rosemary. which yield a volatile oil. aromatic flowers. The antiseptic and preservative properties of the essential oil contained in thyme leaves were known to ancient Egyptians. linear leaves. especially in Mediterranean cuisine. During the spring the shrub produces clusters of small blue flowers. is often cultivated as an ornamental plant. it is also used in perfumes. Sage leaves can also be used to brew a flavorful tea . . is used as a spice in cooking. a member of the mint family. Rosemary oil is used in medicine as a stimulant and as a constituent of liniments.

formerly used in medicine as a gentle stimulant and tonic. and cold drinks. also bee herb or sweet balm.Catnip Historically. . Balmlike properties are common among the mints. The taste is somewhat astringent and the odor slightly aromatic. with an odor like that of balm. It grows best in infertile. A member of the mint family. fevers. are still occasionally used as such. Nepeta cataria. member of the mint family. A variety of the common catnip. and headaches. moist soils in slightly . fruit salads. Basil is easily grown both indoors and out and retains its flavor when dried. The pungent dried leaves induce mild hallucinations when smoked. Lemon balm is native to southern Europe and northern Africa. a culinary and medicinal herb. The stems and leaves. Fruit growers sometimes plant lemon balm in orchards to attract bees to pollinate their crops. felines have not been the only ones to appreciate catnip. The dried leaves make a tea that reportedly soothes cold symptoms. flavor and scent the food of many cultures. and their juice takes the sting out of insect bites. It is native to Europe and has been introduced into North America. and east as far as the Caucasus and northern Iran. The strongly scented leaves are also used in perfumes and natural cosmetics. common name for a fragrant. the herb is entirely edible as salad greens or seasoning. The lemon-scented leaves add flavor to jellies. Balm has long been cultivated in gardens. liqueurs. Balm Balm. perennial herb (see Mint). Basil The sweet leaves of the basil plant. The term balm is applied to several resins obtained from balsam fir trees Lemon Balm. is often mistaken for it. Ocimum basilicum.

it has long-stalked oval leaves and a stem of several white flowers. is a perennial herb found in Eurasia and eastern North America and is popular for shady gardens. which are native to eastern North America. full sun. but will tolerate drought. A dichotomous plant. bell-shaped flowers are used in the manufacture of perfume. pungent. but grow poorly in semitropical and tropical regions. \ Mountain Laurel Mountain laurel belongs to a class of evergreen shrubs called Kalmia. and moderate shade.shady areas. . Lily of the Valley The Convallaria majalis. known as the lily of the valley. Plants can survive winter temperatures as low as -34°C (-30°F). Their leaves contain a poisonous crystalline substance that is harmful to livestock. Mountain laurel has leathery leaves and large clusters of pink or white flowers during spring bloom. These tiny.

found on the surface of branches and trunks. juniper. birds. Other members of the family include periwinkle and oleander. a single leaf may contain a lethal dose. opposite leaves and flowers that grow singly Vegetation of both species contains a number of glycosides. Most mistletoe species are actually hemiparasites. It has leathery leaves. which are opposite or in threes.Their leaves. lily of the valley. the periwinkle plant has dark green. are poisonous. but their roots penetrate into the tree’s tissue and absorb its nutrients. provides food for insects. apple. and mammals and helps create habitat for many wildlife species. Periwinkles are a source of alkaloids that are used to treat cancer. native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. The sap. and other trees. or in pairs. which make them toxic when eaten.Mistletoe Plant Growing in a Tree Mistletoe is a widespread flowering plant parasite that grows on oak. pine. and mistletoe. Many ornamental plants. . common name for an evergreen shrub of the dogbane family. is very toxic. also rose laurel. It is regarded as a pest by some forest managers because it can stunt the growth of commercially important trees. Oleander. Some species of mistletoe lack leaves altogether and rely solely on their host tree to provide all their nourishment. produce sugar through photosynthesis. which grows on conifers. Periwinkle A member of the dogbane family. or partial parasites. The flowers are in terminal branching cymes. Dwarf mistletoe. such as oleander. used in rat poison.

poison oak. Common varieties include (top. left to right) star-of-Bethlehem. poison ivy. Poisonous plants occur in all habitats and many cultivated gardens. vomiting. paralysis. and heart failure. their effects ranging from skin irritation to hallucinations. and poison hemlock. . wisteria. bone marrow destruction.Common Poisonous Plants As many as one percent of all plant species may be toxic to humans and animals. (bottom) yew. belladonna. oleander.