Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

by Cass Daugherty

One of the most common questions we get around the holidays is: are poinsettias poisonous? The short answer is NO! But how did this common myth populate in the first place?

In 1944, author Harry L. Arnold, MD published a book called Poisonous Plants of Hawaii which, as the name states, lists details about poisonous and dangerous plants found on the island. In one excerpt he states:

“The milky juice and the leaves are poisonous. The two-year-old child of an Army officer at Fort Shafter died from eating a poinsettia leaf in 1919.”

With little other research or knowledge of the plant at the time, this news was alarming to gardeners and thus the myth was born.

Poinsettias in a greenhouse

American Journal of Emergency Medicine Study

Edward P Krenzelok, PharmD, T.D Jacobsen, PhD, and John M Aronis, PhD put this myth to the test in their 1996 study examining 22,793 cases of poinsettia exposures. From the abstract:
There were no fatalities among all poinsettia exposures and 98.9% were accidental in nature, with 93.3% involving children. The majority of exposed patients (96.1%) were not treated in a health care facility and 92.4% did not develop any toxicity related to their exposure to the poinsettia. Most patients do not require any type of therapy and can be treated without referral to a health care facility.

It has been proven time and time again that poinsettias are non-lethal, but the myth still holds strong to this day. 

 

In sum - poinsettias are no more toxic than your average houseplant! While we wouldn't recommend making a meal out of them, if a few leaves are ingested, your biggest worries will be an upset stomach. 

Whether you're decorating your own space or gifting this year, feel free to enjoy poinsettias without worry!


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