Jerusalem cherry poisoning
Christmas cherry poisoning; Winter cherry poisoning; Ground cherry poisoning
The Jerusalem cherry is a plant that belongs to the same family as the black nightshade. It has small, round, red and orange fruit. Jerusalem cherry poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of this plant.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or the local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
The poisonous ingredient is:
The poison is found throughout the Jerusalem cherry plant, but especially in the unripened fruit and leaves.
The effects of Jerusalem cherry poisoning mostly affect the primarily gastrointestinal (often delayed 8 to 10 hours), and central nervous system. This type of poisoning can be very dangerous. Other symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain or stomach pain
- Delirium (agitation and confusion)
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of sensation
- Lower than normal body temperature (hypothermia)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slow pulse
- Slowed breathing
- Vision changes
Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care provider.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name and part of the plant that was swallowed, if known
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:
- Activated charcoal
- Blood and urine tests
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
- Fluids by IV (though the vein)
- Medicines to treat symptoms
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed, and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Symptoms most often get better within 1 to 3 days, but hospitalization may be necessary. Death is uncommon.
DO NOT touch or eat any unfamiliar plant. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.
Auerbach PS. Wild plant and mushroom poisoning. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Medicine for the Outdoors. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:374-404.
Auerbach PS, Constance BB, Freer L. Toxic plants. In: Auerbach PS, Constance BB, Freer L, eds. Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 40.
Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 65.
Last reviewed on: 11/13/2021
Reviewed by: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.