Mistletoe is actually poisonous and could leave you with nasty symptoms
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Mistletoe may be seen as one of the most romantic symbols of Christmas, but it turns out it’s actually highly poisonous and can leave you with some pretty nasty symptoms.
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with white berries, with more than 900 species in the world – although only one, Viscum album, is native to the UK, according to the experts at Kew Gardens in London.
Those green-fingered experts also warn that the plant – the Christmassy significance of which is thought to stem from a story in Norse mythology – also comes with a bit of a mean streak.
“Despite its romantic reputation, mistletoe is actually poisonous to humans,” the Kew Gardens website says.
“It contains a toxic substance called phoratoxin, which is particularly concentrated in the leaves.
“If you're decorating with it, keep it away from pets and children.”
This warning is also echoed by LoveTheGarden.co.uk, which explains how all parts of the plant are toxic – the berries, stem and leaves.
“The Mistletoe plant contains Phoratoxin and Viscotoxin, which are both poisonous proteins when ingested,” the website says.
“With over 1500 varieties of Mistletoe in the world, some are more toxic than others.
“There is likely to be a more severe reaction to eating the white berries rather than the drinking a tea made with the leaves, but symptoms will range from mild to severe.”
Possible symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Stomach pain
- Slowing of the heart rate
- Heart problems
The gardening website reports that mistletoe has also been 'known to cause miscarriage in pregnant women', but does not share medical evidence to support the claim.
It adds that the reaction for a child is likely to be ‘more severe’ than if an adult has eaten an equivalent amount, so be sure to seek medical advice as quickly as possible.
As for pets? The effects are ‘pretty much the same as if eaten by a human’, although the reaction may be more severe, so seek medical advice from a vet immediately if you think your pet may have eaten any mistletoe, especially as they may have ingested more than you realise.
“General advice on avoiding the risk of Mistletoe Poisoning would be to keep the plant away from children and animals,” LoveTheGarden.com adds.
“Remove all berries from your festive decorations and place them at a height, which they cannot easily be reached.”