Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with white berries. Mistletoe poisoning occurs when someone eats any part of this plant. Poisoning can also occur if you drink tea created from the plant or its berries.
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 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 poisonous ingredient is found in all parts of the plant, but especially in the leaves.
Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning can affect many parts of the body.
EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT
STOMACH AND INTESTINES
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
HEART AND BLOOD
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, and 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
- Breathing support, including oxygen, a tube through the mouth into the lungs, and a breathing machine (ventilator)
- Blood and urine tests
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
- Fluids by IV (through 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 last for 1 to 3 days and may require a hospital stay. Death is unlikely.
DO NOT touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.
Davison K, Frank BL. Ethnobotany: plant-derived medical therapy. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 68.
Haydock S. Poisoning, overdose antidotes. In: Brown MJ, Sharma P, Mir FA, Bennett PN, eds. Clinical Pharmacology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 10.
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.