The Facts About Poinsettia “Toxicity”

The myth that Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants are toxic still persists. However, extensive testing has shown that eating Poinsettia causes, at worst, only minor physical discomfort.

Scientists at Ohio State University tested Poinsettia toxicity in rats (a standard model of toxicity testing). The rats were fed large amounts of various parts of the Poinsettia plant. None of the rats showed any signs of illness–no changes in behavior, appetite, body weight gain, etc.

Poison control centers keep records of suspected poisoning cases in humans. A review of those records found few cases of illness in children or adults who had eaten Poinsettia, with the worst symptoms being mild nausea and vomiting. In 1975, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees and monitors the potential toxicity of consumer products, reviewed the data and concluded that Poinsettia was non-toxic.

Nonetheless, the rumor persists, spread largely by word-of-mouth. People like to err on the side of safety, which is good. However, in the case of Poinsettia, this concern is unfounded. It is a wise idea to keep all houseplants away from rabbits, other pets, and small children. However, there is no reason to single out this beautiful plant.

An updated plant toxicity list can be found in the House Rabbit Handbook, 5th Edition.

  • George Flentke, Ph.D.

    George Flentke received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his dissertation focused on the structure and catalytic activity of the enzyme UDP-galactose-4-epimerase, which is crucial for galactose metabolism. Currently, he manages Dr. Smith’s lab, where he investigates the mechanism by which alcohol alters ribosomal signaling and mTOR activity in alcohol-exposed neural crest.

  • Susan Smith

    Dr Smith is the University of North Carolina's Nutrition Research Institute's Deputy Director for Science and The Dickson Foundation – Harris Teeter Distinguished Professor of Nutrition. Dr. Smith’s laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms by which dietary components affect prenatal development. Current work largely focuses upon alcohol and how it causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

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