Fri, Jul 05, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Wild plants pose poison risk: FDA

FOLK REMEDIES:Hikers were rushed to hospital after eating mushrooms identified as edible on an app, which is only accurate up to 80% of the time, an official said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a clinical toxicologist yesterday urged people not to eat wild plants recommended in folk remedies, as many of them are toxic.

People are exposed to a multitude of health information through the Internet, but some are misleading, FDA Food Safety Division official Lin Hsu-yang (林旭陽) said.

For example, three hikers in April ate poisonous mushrooms after using a plant identification app, and were taken to an emergency room after experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and limb weakness, Lin said, adding that such apps are only accurate about 70 to 80 percent of the time.

The FDA advises against eating wild plants to prevent poisoning risk, he added.

Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), director of clinical toxicology and occupational medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, cited the case of a 24-year-old woman, who thought she found wild ginseng when hiking in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投).

The woman experienced acute vomiting and diarrhea after eating a small piece of the raw plant, which turned out to be an American pokeweed root, he said, adding that there is no specific antidote, so she was hospitalized overnight for observation and supportive treatment.

Other poisonous plants that people commonly mistake as edible include the chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach), Coriaria intermedia and black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), Yang said.

In another case, a man confused the fruit of Coriaria intermedia, a neurotoxic plant, with edible mulberries and experienced numbness, nausea, loss of consciousness and severe cramping, he said.

A 63-year-old man with chronic constipation believed his friend who told him that eating chinaberry tree leaves would relieve his symptoms, so he ate more than 20 leaves at once and became dizzy, weak in the limbs and his eyelids drooped, Yang said.

Studies have found that the chinaberry tree is toxic to humans, with the fruit being the most toxic, followed by the leaves and bark, Yang said, adding that different parts of poisonous plants have different levels of toxicity.

“People should avoid using folk remedies to cure diseases or detoxify,” he said.

If people feel uncomfortable after eating wild plants, they should seek medical attention immediately, Yang added.

People who are interested in using plant-based medicine should check the FDA’s list of approved botanical ingredients and only consume the recommended quantity, or consult a certified traditional Chinese medicine doctor to receive an herbal medicine prescription, Yang said.

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