What Happens If You Eat Mistletoe? | Love The Garden

What Happens if you Eat Mistletoe?

LifeofRyrie's picture
By Sarah Ryrie
Mistletoe is a traditional Christmas decoration

Mistletoe may be the perfect excuse for getting up close and personal with the object of your affections, but the plant itself should stay firmly suspended a foot above your head.  What happens if you eat mistletoe?  Is it safe?  Will it kill you?  What about if your dog snaffles a few berries off the floor?

Does Mistletoe’s loving peck, actually deliver the ‘kiss of death’?  

What is Mistletoe?

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with white berries that parasitically grows in the branches of  certain trees.  It is traditionally used in festive decorations and according to Nordic mythology and Medieval beliefs, it is a symbol of peace, love and friendship.  

Mistletoe growing in a tree

Is Mistletoe Poisonous?

Mistletoe IS poisonous, although it is doubtful as to whether it will actually cause death.  All parts of the plant are toxic (that’s berries, stem and leaves).  The Mistletoe plant contains Phoratoxin and Viscotoxin, which are both poisonous proteins when ingested.  With over 1500 varieties of Mistletoe in the world, some are more toxic than others. 

What Happens if you Eat Mistletoe?

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.  The list of possible symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowing of the heat rate
  • Heart problems
  • Mistletoe has been known to cause miscarriage in pregnant women 

If a child has ingested any part of a Mistletoe plant, the reaction is likely to be more severe than if an adult has eaten an equivalent amount.  As soon as you become aware of Mistletoe ingestion, it is advisable to seek medical advice as quickly as possible.  

Is This The Same for Animals?

If your cat or dog has gobbled a couple of berries that have fallen from the festive wreath, what will happen?  Pretty much the same as if eaten by a human.  The reaction may be more severe, so it is important that you seek medical advice from your vet straight away, as more berries may have been eaten than you might be aware of.  

Advice for Avoiding Accidental Mistletoe Poisoning

General advice on avoiding the risk of Mistletoe Poisoning would be to keep the plant away from children and animals.  Remove all berries from your festive decorations and place them at a height, which they cannot easily be reached

Mistletoe hanging down with red ribbon

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