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Seven Deadly Herbs to Avoid

By Edited May 31, 2016 2 5


It seems there is so much information on the herbs you should take but not too much information on those you should avoid. Not all of them are safe to use and some are just not worth experimenting with unless you have advice from an experienced herbalist.  There are some that are only poisonous in large dosages but it’s better to have a professional give you advice on this. There are some that are deadly herbs no matter how much you take, and there are some that are acceptable to use externally but not internally. All in all, it’s less trouble to find a safer alternate herb to use.  It’s the intention of this article to make those aware who use herbs to be cautious and not to take chances. Do your research and by that it is meant to use many sources.

 Coltsfoot is one that is very questionable to use. The possible harm it may cause your liver outweighs the help it may be with respiratory problems. This was used for common things like colds and flu so you could easily substitute, ginger, Echinacea, or goldenseal. Ginger and goldenseal can be used at any time you have cold or flu symptoms but Echinacea has to be used at the onset of the cold or flu as an on/off herb.  Otherwise, your body will get used to it, and it won’t work like it should.


Some of the ones that are deadly are from the same family like Belladonna and Foxglove which are in the Nightshade group.  Not all Nightshade plants are deadly though,  as the potato and eggplant are actually part of this family too.

 Foxglove, you may have heard of as a gardeners flower, is probably one of the deadliest and most dangerous types of herb you could use.  Even a small dose to a child is very deadly. This is a very good reason not to even grow it in your garden with small children in your household.  Foxglove was used for Congestive Heart failure in the past but has been ruled as unsafe to use currently.

 You may have seen products with Arnica in creams and ointments. It is a great alternative remedy for arthritis or muscle soreness. This can become a deadly herb if taken internally. You should not even use this around a cut or open wound. It is strictly for external use.

You might have heard of someone who drinks Barberry Tea or you may have tried it yourself.  If you drink too much of this tea it will make you sick and may cause your blood pressure to drop rapidly. For the benefits that this herb has, there are much safer herbs with the same or more benefits.  If you are using this for colds, sore throats or the flu, why not use ginger tea or Echinacea. They are much safer.

Celandine is a remedy you should never try.  Its nick name is wart weed and can be used to get rid of warts but internally can be dangerous.  Some herbalists use it as a remedy for gallstones. 

 Jimsonweed is also a deadly herb which has a spiny fruit. It should not be grown around young children. This herb was used to treat asthma. The historical story on this herb is that it is also named Jamestown weed which is because the settlers in Jamestown ate the leaves and were poisoned by it.

 A good rule of thumb to remember when using herbs, in general, is that a large dosage of anything can do more harm than good. Another point to make is that many deadly herbs can be mistaken for herbs that are not. For instance, Coltsfoot resembles the dandelion and there are many herbs like this. Play it safe and use caution and educate yourself.





Oct 27, 2013 8:59pm
Great article. I remember my grandfather used to take Belladona when in the Northam army camp. He was in the medical group. Cannot remember what he took it for though.
I agree that you should not take anything continuously, as eventually it does not work,our system becomes immune to things.
Oct 29, 2013 4:44am
Thanks for your comment! Yes or take it in an on/off pattern. Echinacea should be used that way.
Mar 3, 2014 7:04pm
Interesting piece on herbs. In my experience Echinacea has been awesome for colds and flu at first onset, I will take up to 30mls that day, if I time it right I'll wake the next day symptom free. Golden seal is scarce now so is considered an endangered herb and discouraged from use, otherwise a fantastic medicinal herb. Thanks for the article.
May 31, 2014 9:07am
I can't tell you how many times I've read something like, "It's an herb so it's perfectly safe." Some herbs are deadly, and I love that you wrote this piece to get people thinking about that fact.

Even common household spices like sage can be dangerous if used too long or taken in high doses. Eating plants isn't the same using them medicinally, when they'll be ingested in higher doses over a prolonged period. People who want to explore herbs as an alternative to pharmaceutical products need to do exactly what you say: use caution and educate themselves.
Jun 3, 2014 3:47am
Herbs need to be used with caution. That's why it pays to do your research.
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