Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wait! That isn't salad

…Jane E Brody, writing in the NYT on July 17, warns of the weirdness one can find in the backyard or woods.

…Poison ivy, of course, still reigns, but it isn’t the only bad actor in the wild.

…Many people, unknowingly, she says, bring poison into the house in plant form. Last year, poison control centers got 57,000 calls about kids munching on house plants.

…Checkout The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants by Lewis S Nelson, MD, Richard D Shih, MD, and Michael J. Balick. That last guy is director for the Institute of Economic Botany and the New York Botanical Garden.

…Look around—you may be harboring some poisonous types. Aloe is one, elephant’s ear, jade, peace lily, philodendron, and Dieffenbachia (dumbcane) are others.

…Oh, there are more on that house plant table of yours: foxglove, hellebore, vinca, rhododenron, and mums.

…Vinca is the basis of the anticancer drug vincristine. Foxglove is the basis of digitalis (think stopping your heart).

…It’s not just children who get caught up in this. Dr Nelson, Brody says, said some people thought they were eating the strong, onion-like ramp plant and were really chowing down on a cardiac toxin in hellebore.

…Mangos have a poison-ivy like oil in the skins. Don’t hold them like an apple and much.

…The oil in these is called urushiol. You may touch it many times with no problem, then zap! Problem! Eight-five percent of people eventually become allergic.

…Other plants like Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow can make you more sensitive to the sun.

…Hey, plants, you always seemed so nice and pretty. Liars.

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