Cautionary Herbs

Used extensively in medicine, herbs are invaluable but should only be self-administered under medical supervision. Take care in cultivation and identification as some cause skin damage if touched and illness, or even death, if swallowed.
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Photo By: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Digitalis

Foxgloves are grown commercially for their active ingredient, which is used in many coronary or cardiac medicines. There parts of this plant are highly poisonous and if ingested, medical help must be found immediately.

Aconitum

Aconites are easy to confuse with delphiniums, but neither should be eaten. The seeds, roots, flowers, and leaves of aconites are highly toxic if swallowed, first stimulating the central nervous system and then paralyzing it — even simple contact with the skin can cause a numbing effect on some people. It is safest not to grow plants such as these where young children can access them or in mixed beds where harvestable herbs or vegetables are grown.

Ruta Graveolens

This is a small-leaved, somewhat innocuous herb once recommended for inclusion in culinary dishes. It is, however, highly toxic causing mental confusion and inducing abortion in pregnancy. All Ruta spp. must be handled with great care as even the slightest contact of the sap with bare skin can result in the skin becoming ultra sensitized to sunlight. The blistering or dermatitis that ensues can be extensive and very painful.

Other cautionary herbs:
Be cautious in using or collecting more unusual herbs and be aware that this is not an exhaustive list. Some of those included are only likely to be damaging or poisonous if ingested in large quantities.
- Acorus calamus
- Arnica montana
- Artemisia absinthium
- Borago officinalis
- Hypericum perforatum
- Matricaria recutita
- Mentha pulegium
- Symphytum
spp.
- Taxus baccata
- Teucrium
x lucidrys

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