The woodland vine is known to many people by its biological name Clematis. Regardless of the name used, it is convincing as a perennial and especially as a climber with bright flowers and the ability to form a dense green growth while climbing. However, caution is also required when cultivating it. Because again and again one reads that the Clematis is poisonous. Whether this is true and who could be affected by it, we reveal here.
Clematis – Toxic or not?
Like all buttercups, the woodland vine contains the toxin protoanemonin and is therefore clearly to be classified as poisonous. This applies both to the growing plant in the ground and to the cutting or bouquet in the vase. Only when the plant dries does the protoanemonin transform into anemonin, which is harmless. However, this should not be relied upon blindly, as complete drying is not visible from the outside. Therefore, it is advisable to always consider clematis poisonous, regardless of its condition.
Where is the poison?
The critical alkaloid of the Clematis is part of the ingredients dissolved in the sap of the plant. Thus, the question about the toxic components of the plant can be answered with an unequivocal “all”. Since all parts of the living clematis, from the roots to the stems to the leaves and flowers, are permeated and supplied with plant sap, the poison is also transported everywhere by the sap and can develop its effect from there.
The way into the body
The toxin can take effect whenever the plant sap reaches the host, for example through
- Ingestion or swallowing
- Skin contact with leaked sap, e.g. at cut sites, torn leaves, etc.
- Contact with injured plant skin by bending, crushing, etc.
Attention: It should not be forgotten that even a clematis that has been cut off and placed in a vase is still poisonous. Although in smaller doses, the water of the vase, as well as the surface of the vase itself after drying, thus contains the toxin. Vases should definitely be thoroughly cleaned after use for clematis!
Effect of protoanemonin
The alkaloid is absorbed through the skin. It is irrelevant whether it is normal skin, or a much more sensitive mucous membrane, for example, in the mouth, eye or stomach. If the poison of the wild vine hits the skin, it is absorbed and can cause the following effects:
- Inflammation of the immediate contact site and its surroundings.
- Irritation of the respiratory tract
- Impairment of kidneys and intestines, in case of prolonged contact permanent damage
- respiratory problems up to respiratory paralysis
- Circulatory problems up to standstill
- In extreme cases death
Efficacy in humans and animals
Protoanemonin is considered a very nonspecific toxin and affects humans and animals frequently living in association with humans, such as dogs, cats, cattle, horses, and other livestock alike. Even birds are affected.
The effects are basically always the same, whereby adult humans and animals are likely to be affected primarily by skin contact with the woodland vine. There is usually no danger of consumption here due to the strongly bitter taste. Small children and young animals, on the other hand, tend not to spit out the plant even when it exudes its typical taste, which actually signals inedibility.
Already from small portions of a leaf or a flower orally taken up the first symptoms can occur. In the case of unconscious skin contact, on the other hand, annoying to painful, but rarely actually critical consequences are to be feared.
First aid in case of poisoning
If an animal has consumed a piece of the wild grapevine and shows signs of a change in behavior, you should immediately consult a veterinarian.
On the other hand, if humans, whether adults or young children, show signs of poisoning from wild grapevine, the first thing to do is call poison control. Subsequently, inducing vomiting can help prevent further poison absorption into the body from the consumed plant parts. All further steps of detoxification should then be performed by an emergency physician or the aftercare agencies.
Attention: The home remedies salt water and milk, which are always mentioned in connection with poisoning, should be avoided at all costs. Because both substances lead to an even faster absorption of the poison and can thus quickly turn the actually well-intentioned first aid into the opposite!