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5 Herbs That Are Dangerous

What Are Dangerous Herbs


There are hundreds of varieties of herbs to grow in the garden. Many of them have a multitude of uses, both in the kitchen and in the medicine chest. Although herbs are useful, some of them are better left alone. Here are 5 that are toxic to ingest, some even to handle. Caution should be used, if you plan on including any of the following.

1. Aconite

aconite - Monkhood
© Flickr user Jenny Downing

Aconite is considered very toxic. It is not to be used without medical advice, and please note that it is not used by the home herbalist.

Aconite poisoning has no antidote.

2. Aloe

Aloe is a commonly used herb for its skin soothing ability. It goes without saying, that with minor burns, aloe is the best remedy.

Aloe is not to be used internally however. Ingesting aloe will cause violent stomach upset and diarrhea, if not done under medical supervision.

Aloe juice that is sold in the store is safe for consumption.

3. Arnica

As a mother of 5 rambunctious kids, I am familiar with arnica's ability to heal aches, pains and bruises. Arnica in its Homeopathic form, is safe for use.

Arnica made this list, in reference to any other form of use. Arnica contains substances that affect the heart, produces violent gastrointestinal reactions, and even death.

Do not use any form of arnica, other than the homeopathic form, with contains a minuscule amount of actual arnica. This includes trying to create your own herbal remedies, using arnica. The use of homeopathic arnica is encouraged by this writer, but only use purchased products, to ensure you are staying safe.

4. Angelica

Angelica Archangelica
© Steve P2008

Angelica has been used as a sweet treat and liqueurs for many years. In European countries, the leaves are eaten as a vegetable and in Asian countries, angelica has been considered a potent herb, with only ginseng being more powerful.

Despite all of the benefits that angelica has to offer, it makes the dangerous list, because there have been studies that have found this herb contains carcinogens.

Angelica also can cause skin rashes and is absolutely not recommended for use during pregnancy, or if you have diabetes. If you do choose to use angelica, do not harvest it from the wild. Angelica looks almost identical to water hemlock, which is extremely poisonous if handled and ingested.

5. Autumn crocus

The tiny crocus is a beloved flower in many garden landscapes. From very early spring, to long into the fall, there are so many varieties, you can have blooms throughout the entire growing season.

The spice Saffron is actually a part of the Crocus Sativus, also known as the Saffron Crocus. This crocus looks unlike any other variety. It is dark purple, with three stamens (the actual saffron)inside each bloom, that protrude horizontally out the sides of the flower.

Unfortunately, some people mistake other crocus as having edible parts as well. This is simply not true. If eaten, another variety of purple crocus, the Autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale contains an alkaloid called colchicine, that causes intestinal distress in the form of diarrhea, vomiting and pain. If enough is ingested, this can cause death.

If you are unsure of the identity of your crocus, ask yourself these two simple questions:

  • Am I in Zone 7 or greater? Crocus sativus can not tolerate a cold climate.
  • Does the flower look highly unusual, with three bright red stamens sticking out horizontally, from between the crocus petals?
  • Is it Fall? Crocus sativus only blooms in the Autumn.
If you would like an alternative to saffron, try Azafran, sometimes called Spanish or American Saffron. This spice is often found in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store. It will impart the bright yellow color, but not the delicate flavor of traditional saffron.

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