TREE TOBACCO — death by ANABASINE

We say it time and time again, ” Don NOT eat any wild plant, UNLESS you can 100% positively identify it safe to eat.

From pubmed.gov

  • Death of a worker occurred after the ingestion of unknown amounts of Nicotiana glauca G leaves. The leaves were cooked after having been mistakenly considered to be spices of a type that grow in Thailand.
  • Anabasine was detected in both the viscera samples of a mother and child, supporting the finding that these fatalities were due to the ingestion of N. glauca accidentally collected with traditional spinach (marog).
  • Two patients presented with life-threatening motor paresis after the ingestion of leaves from the tree tobacco plant (Nicotiana glauca ). In addition to severe muscle weakness, bulbar palsies, flexor muscle spasm, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory compromise were reported or observed
  • a 43-year-old man was found dead after apparently drinking a water extract of Nicotiana glauca.
  • A young adult male was found dead in a field. No cause of death was apparent at autopsy, and the only positive toxicological finding was the presence of a nicotine-like alkaloid isolated from the liver. Anabasine, the major, highly toxic alkaloid of the shrub, Nicotiana glauca
  • a 76-year-old male who ingested Nicotiana glauca and developed severe nicotine-alkaloid toxicity primarily characterized by the neuromuscular blockade and respiratory failure. Recovery occurred with supportive care.
  • While these reports don’t give detail as to whether or not some of the cases were intentional or not, one thing is for sure, they all occurred because of a sweet, innocent, pretty looking shrub. In fact, Christopher Nyerges intentionally grows it because it attracts hummingbirds to his yard. The fact is, it is prolific throughout California but is also found in many places throughout the country, Mexico, and the Mediterranean parts of the world. I’m talking about Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)

On a recent outing, after pointing this plant out, I was asked if one could smoke the plant. I said, “Sure, but I won’t be held responsible for the affects”.

Regardless of the fact it is called Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), it should not be confused with smoking tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). This is not a plant one wants to smoke. Anabasine is the main toxin found in this plant and closely resembles Nicotine, but is not nicotine. Anabasine found in Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) is so toxic, ingested it causes

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Slow Pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Collapse
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death

It is reported, however, that some Native Americans added some of this to their tobacco mix. Christopher, on one occasion, tried doing this and he said he experienced dizziness and a strong headache afterward.

TREE TOBACCO — death by ANABASINE
TREE TOBACCO — death by ANABASINE

This plant, when very young and just starting out, closely resembles pokeweed, a common plant found in the south which is also toxic, but the pokeweed is rendered safe to eat after a few changes in boiling water; however, Tree Tobacco is NOTrendered safe to eat after changes in boiling water. This is a case where mistaken identity can prove fatal.

Again, “If you can’t 100% positively identify it safe to eat, stay away from it and don’t eat it”