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Mr. Smarty Plants - Digestive distress from eating Lonicera sempervirens

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Thursday - February 23, 2006

From: Raleigh, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Poisonous Plants
Title: Digestive distress from eating Lonicera sempervirens
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

A friend of mine ate Lonicera sempervirens and it caused a burning sensation in his stomach. What may have caused this sensation?

ANSWER:

Although I couldn't find any sources that listed Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) as toxic, several other species in the Genus Lonicera are mildly toxic. Ingesting Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), native to eastern Asia but now widespread in North America, can cause various symptoms including vomiting, respiratory failure, and convulsions when eaten in large quantities. The toxic components in the vine are saponic and cyanogenic glycosides and the berries contain carotenoids. The nectar, however, can be sipped from the flowers with no ill effects. European fly honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum), native to Europe but also widespread in North America, causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains. Mice injected with berry extract often died. The toxic component appears to be saponin. according to the Canadian Poisonous Plants Database. Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), native to Asia and southern Russia, is cited in European literature as being toxic.

It is likely that Lonicera sempervirens also contains saponins and these are what caused your friend's gastric distress.
 

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