Human contact with potentially toxic plants, which may occur through abuse or by accident or attempted suicide, is frequent and sometimes results in clinically significant toxicity.
The aim of the present study was to identify which plants may lead to severe poisoning, and to define the clinical relevance of plant toxicity for humans in Switzerland.
We analyzed 42,193 cases of human plant exposure and 255 acute moderate, severe, and lethal poisonings, which were reported to the Swiss Toxicological Information Centre between January 1995 and December 2009.
Plant contact was rarely responsible for serious poisonings. Lethal intoxications were extremely rare and were caused by plants with cardiotoxic (Taxus baccata) or mitosis-inhibiting (Colchicum autumnale) properties.
Most often, plant contact was accidental and patients remained asymptomatic or developed mild symptoms, which fully resolved within a short time.