Poin­set­tias, poi­sonous?

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Christmas trees, Santa Claus, meno­rahs, and glit­ter­ing light­ing dis­plays are just a few of the many prom­i­nent sym­bols of the hol­i­day sea­son. And while mistle­toe might garner more at­ten­tion and in­spire more dis­plays of af­fec­tion, poin­set­tias are an­other prom­i­nent sign that the hol­i­day sea­son has ar­rived.

Thanks to its bright red and green col­ors, the poin­set­tia is per­haps the ideal hol­i­day plant. But as much as it suits hol­i­day decor and seems tai­lor-made for that spe­cial time of year be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and the first of Jan­uary, the poin­set­tia has a rep­u­ta­tion that few plants would want.

First dis­cov­ered in Mex­ico and brought to the United States by Dr. Joel Poin­sett, the poin­set­tia has long been ru­mored to be poi­sonous. How­ever, the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Poi­son Cen­ter notes that poin­set­tias are not deadly. In fact, the NCPC notes that the ru­mor that poin­set­tias are deadly may have been around for more than a cen­tury, trac­ing its ori­gins all the way back to a child who was found dead ly­ing next to a poin­set­tia plant. The plant was blamed for the child’s death, and even though that blame was mis­placed, the stigma stuck. We­bMD notes that oth­ers trace the false ru­mors sur­round­ing poin­set­tias to 1919, when par­ents blamed the death of their daugh­ter, who they thought had eaten poin­set­tia leaves, on this ubiq­ui­tous hol­i­day plant.

Even to­day, when re­searchers have long since proven that poin­set­tias are not deadly, many peo­ple still be­lieve they can be fa­tal if con­sumed.

The NCPC notes that, in most cases, ex­po­sure to any part of a poin­set­tia plant in chil­dren or pets has lit­tle, if any, ef­fect. How­ever, if the plant is swal­lowed, some peo­ple and pets may ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms in­clud­ing nau­sea, vom­it­ing or di­ar­rhea. Some who touch the plant may de­velop a rash after con­tact.

While poin­set­tias are not deadly, the NCPC still ad­vises those who plant to in­clude the plant in their hol­i­day decor to take ev­ery mea­sure nec­es­sary to pre­vent chil­dren and pets from swal­low­ing it. Plac­ing poin­set­tias be­yond the reach of kids and pets is one sim­ple way to ac­com­plish just that.

Poin­set­tias are seem­ingly ev­ery­where come the hol­i­day sea­son. And be­cause they’re not fa­tal, cel­e­brants can con­tinue to dis­play these beau­ti­ful plants that call to mind the col­ors of the hol­i­day sea­son.

Cour­tesy photo

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