Summer’s here and the time I right for romping in woods, fields and vacant lots. Although it may be fun to pick wildflowers along the way, there is a host of fierce flora you need to stay away from, lest they inject you with their poisons.
While many of them may look innocent, i.e. giant hogweed which resembles its cousins the wild carrot and Queen Anne’s Lace, be forewarned that this, as well as the better-known poison ivy and poison oak, can cause trail and terror for those unfamiliar with just how dangerous some rather “innocent-looking” plants can be.
Poison ivy, sumac, and oak
Even though most people have heard of poison ivy, lots folks still may have trouble identifying it. This may be because the plants tend to change their appearance as they age. For instance, poison ivy may appear to be “a small herbaceous plant when young,” after a few years it will mature into a blanket of hairy vines that can attach themselves to fences and tree trunks. When in doubt, however, it is good to keep in mind the old adage “Leaves of three, let them be.”
Meanwhile, it is also important to remember that any part of the plant contains a toxic chemical named urushiol that can cause serve rashes and itching when touched. The same irritant, which is also found in poison sumac and poison oak, can also become airborne if any part of the plant is burned.
Mild cases can be easily treated with OTC antihistamines such as Benadryl, as well as topical creams containing hydrocortisone, and Calamine lotion. Folk medicine cures for treating itching range from using the underside (spores) of fern fronds, mud, saliva, baking soda, oil, onions, lemon juice, and herbs such as dandelion, jewelweed, and horsetail, in addition to milk of magnesia.
While the rashes may not appear for a day or 2 after exposure, the discomfort can last anywhere from 10-21-days. Severe cases (requiring a doctor’s care), however, can stretch out for as long as 6 weeks. Still, some people are not affected by urushiol at all.
To the uninitiated, giant hogweed may look tempting to pluck, but in truth, this huge weed is quite toxic to even touch thanks to a noxious compound that permeates its leaves, stems roots, flowers and seeds that can cause severe, dark and painful blisters within 48-hours after touching them. Even worse, these purplish or black blisters can result in scarring that can last for as long as 6-years according to the CDC. Claims have also been made that exposure to the sap may also cause temporary or even permanent blindness. However, this remains debatable.
Even worse, these purplish or black blisters can result in scarring that can last for as long as 6-years according to the CDC. Claims have also been made that exposure to the sap may also cause temporary or even permanent blindness. However, this remains debatable.
Because of the dangers associated with the weed, legislators in England made it illegal to “plant or cause giant hogweed to grow in the wild with the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Meanwhile the US Department of Agriculture has made it illegal to import hogweed into the country without a special permit, while the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has had a program to control giant hogweed for the past 9-years. This includes, “reporting, database maintenance, and crews for removal or herbicide control.”
If you must dig it up, it is important to wear protective clothing including gloves and glasses. If any skin is exposed while handling the plant, be sure to wash it off thoroughly with soap and water. In the meantime, be sure to keep your kids and pets away from these (and all the other) plants.
Note: Although the tiny hairs of the leaves and stems of stinging nettles can also cause burning pain that can last for hours, days and even weeks when touched they can be quite tasty when fried or boiled (which takes the sting out). In addition, juice from the plant has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks as a tea for lung disorders, as well a treatment for insect bites and stings. Native American medicine men also used it to aid in pregnancy and childbirth, while modern herbalists (particularly in Europe) use ground up nettle roots to treat enlarged prostates, as well as ease symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. However, it is important to note that stinging nettle may interact negatively with a number of prescription drugs.
Native American medicine men also used it to aid in pregnancy and childbirth, while modern herbalists (particularly in Europe) use ground up nettle roots to treat enlarged prostates, as well as ease symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. However, it is important to note that stinging nettle may interact negatively with a number of prescription drugs.
According to an article by Dr, Steven D. Ehrlich, published April 13, 2016in the June 13, 2007 issue of Lifescripts these include blood-thinners Warfarin (Coumadin), Clopidogrel (Plavix) and even aspirin; as well as diaretics such as Furosemide (Lasix) and Hydrocholorothiazide. Since nettles are also used to lower blood pressure, Ehrlich cautioned about combining them with specific ace inhibitors Captpril (Capoten), Elaropril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Zestril), fosinopril (Monopril); Beta blockers: Atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), propranolol (Induran); and Calcium channel blockers: Nifedipine (Procardia), amlodipine (Norvasc), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin).
Diabetics should also consult with their doctors before ingesting any products containing nettles since the plant could also lower their blood sugar levels and thus increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia.