A List of Poisonous Plants and Herbs and Their Lore
A Brief List of Poisonous Herbs
While herbs were put on this planet for a purpose to aid human beings in healing, unfortunately there are some herbs that are considered poisonous herbs. When we say poisonous herbs here, we are talking particularly poisonous for human consumption. That doesn't mean that these poisonous herbs cannot be used for other reasons, which will also be described here.
Herbs have been used for thousands of years in healing diseases and injuries, but they have also been used as a major part of folk magic for various purposes including good luck, love, prosperity, protection, and more. Just because the poisonous herbs below are labeled as poisonous doesn't mean you should never use them in your practice. Just take heed before using them, make note of how poisonous they are and what sort of poisonous herbs they are. Keep them away from children and pets, especially.
Also, please note that this list of poisonous herbs details poison herbs that are came across most often in herbalism and folk magic in the United States but is by NO means a full list of poisonous herbs. Before using any herb or plant, please look up its properties in a trustworthy source to identify whether it is poisonous and any effects it might have if taken internally. If you're unsure or reluctant, contact a certified herbalist.
List of Poisonous Herbs: Belladonna
Belladonna is known as many things including Witch's berry, Banewort, Black Cherry, Deadly Nightshade, Death's herb, Devil's Cherries, and Fair Lady. Just by simply reading these names, one can gain a hint as to the poison associated with this poisonous herb. While Belladonna is beautiful, it is also quite deadly if ingested. Some of the deities associated with this poisonous herb are Bellona, Circe, and Hecate. It was said that Belladonna was used in ancient Rome in order to cause visions while worshiping particular deities, specifically Bellona (the ancient Roman Goddess of war). The name of this poison herb Belladonna actually is Italian for "beautiful woman". Belladonna is a poison herb that was believed to have been used by witches to make a special "flying ointment" in order to rub on their skin and "fly" to their coven gatherings. This belief however is silly folklore and incorrect; however, it may have been used as a hallucinogen in order to induce psychic dreams or visions.
Belladonna is a poisonous herb that has large green, veiny leaves and pinkish-purple flowers that look like little cups. Belladonna is also a poisonous herb that grows dark purple berries. You can see how these would be tempting to eat; however, NEVER ingest any part of the Belladonna plant...there are still deaths reported due to accidental ingestion of this poisonous herb.
If you are going to use/keep Belladonna in your practice, it is best to keep Belladonna far away from children and pets and also clearly labelled in a jar so that you are always aware of what it is. This ensures that no mistakes are made and Belladonna is never accidentally ingested by you or anyone else in your household. Never take Belladonna internally or allow anyone else to take it internally. It is far too poisonous to mess with.
List of Poisonous Herbs: Foxglove
Foxglove is another poisonous herb on our list of poisonous herbs that should be avoided for internal use. It is also known as dead man's bells and witches' gloves. This poisonous herb is downright gorgeous with its long green spikes and tube-like purple flowers. The flowers of this poisonous herb can also be shades of gray, white, and pink. So pretty that someone might have the idea to eat it...but DO NOT. Foxglove is a poisonous herb and plant and should never be used for consumption/internal use.
It used to be utilized by herbalists but has been abandoned by many, as this poison herb can contain some deadly ingredients that will slow your heart rate and potentially stop your heart altogether. Foxglove has been used in some medicines produced by pharmaceutical companies (Digoxin, etc.), but this is because they have the means in which to extract the good properties and remove the toxic. Please don't attempt to use foxglove for consumption.
For folk magic purposes (not involving consumption of this poison herb), foxglove can be used in various ways: as a protective herb for the home or garden and to represent the element water. Welsh women used foxglove to create a black dye in which to draw lines on their homes' floors to keep evil spirits out.
Video about Foxglove, a Poisonous Herb
List of Poisonous Herbs: Wolfsbane
Wolfsbane is another on our list of poisonous plants, as it is indeed a poisonous herb. It has also been commonly called Thor's Hat, Wolf's Hat, Leopard's Bane, and Monkshood. This poisonous herb is not just poisonous internally but should be avoided as a rub on the skin externally, as well.
Wolfsbane belongs to the buttercup family and is a beautiful blue-blossoming, poisonous plant that has been used as arrow poison for centuries. In ancient & Chinese medicinal purposes, wolfsbane could be used to slow the pulse and as a sedative. This poisonous herb should never be used for consumption today, as there are dozens of less risky medicinal herbs ready for your use. If you take in this poisonous herb, usually within an hour the effects are felt and death could occur quite rapidly.
Wolfsbane is a poisonous herb that was used in the old days as protection against vampires and werewolves (hence the name wolfsbane). To protect yourself from werewolves, the poisonous herb wolfsbane can be used with great caution. Again, keep wolfsbane far out of reach of children and all animals and clearly labelled in an air-tight jar. Put the seed of the wolfsbane in a lizard's skin as a protective sachet against werewolves.
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.
- From The Wolf Man, 1941
Poisonous Herbs: Daffodil
Doesn't it seem as though some of the prettiest things can be the most dangerous? While Daffodils are considered a poisonous plant and poisonous herb, they are not usually fatal (thank the gods). Daffodils are poisonous herbs that should never be ingested as they contain toxic ingredients that could cause dizziness, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. A trip to the hospital will most likely have to occur after ingesting this poisonous herb.
The poisonous herb Daffodil has also been called a Narcissus and Goose Leek and is seen in folk magic being used for love, luck, and fertility. It is associated with the element water and has feminine qualities. Keep a bouquet in the bedroom to increase fertility or carry them for good luck and love.
Do not consume daffodils and keep them away from children and animals while in the home.
Hemlock, The Witch's Herb
Hemlock is another of the poisonous herbs that was very popular among witches in the Dark Ages, particularly in England. There are various forms of Hemlock but one in particular is the poisonous strain to avoid or handle with care. And that is the Conium maculatum.
Just like any other "poisonous" herb on this list, Hemlock has been used for both poisoning people and also for healing people. How to determine which use would be poisonous and which would be healing is something that only the most experienced and wise of herbalists would know. Socrates was actually said to have been poisoned by a Hemlock infusion in 399 BC, after being arrested for "impiety". In fact, hemlock infusions were used on many occasions to rid prisons of their criminals.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we see that Hemlock has also been used as an anti-spasmodic and as a sedative. The problem with using Hemlock as a sedative is that if you give a little too much, the person could overdose and go into a paralysis of sorts. And perhaps death. It has also been said that children in Great Britain would make whistles from the stems of Hemlock and therefore be poisoned by this plant.
Hemlock has various names, and is well known and loved by herbalists today as it is so steeped in folklore.
Poisonous Herbs & Poisonous Plants in PicturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Henbane, Stinking Nightshade
Henbane is in the family Solanaceae, which is the same family as Belladonna atropa. This is the nightshade family, and henbane is also referred to as stinking nightshade or black henbane. The original name of henbane is believed to have actually meant "death" bane, instead of "hen" meaning "chicken".
This poisonous herb was used in magical concoctions, along with other poisonous herbs to induce visions. This type of "potion" or concoction has also been called "flying" ointment or flying potions, as it was believed to have been used by witches in order to give them hallucinations of flying. It was also said to have been used by the priestesses in Athens to contact oracles.
While the herb in large doses can be deadly, the poison of the henbane plant really refers to its hallucinogenic effects. Though you should never consume henbane for the sake of getting "high".
Again another poisonous herb belonging to the nightshade family, Mandrake Root is used in modern times in Wiccan and magical ceremonies and ritual. The chemical constituents of the mandrake plant have certain effects on the human body, including being a hallucinogenic and hypnotic. This plant was also mentioned in the Bible a few times.
There was an old legend stating that if the mandrake root was dug up from the ground, it would scream and that the scream would pierce the ears of all who hear it...killing them.
As with any other poisonous herb, Mandrake root is also believed to have medicinal properties that are used today. It is used today as a treatment to remove warts from the body. It has also been tested as a treatment for cancer, but was denied as effective as it was thought to kill too many good cells in the body while also eating the cancer cells.
© 2012 Author Nicole Canfield