The yew plant is a shrub with evergreen-like leaves. Yew poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of this plant. The plant is most poisonous in winter.
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.
Poisonous ingredients include:
Taxine is found in various kinds of the yew plant. The poison is in most parts of the yew plant, but the highest amount is in the seeds.
Symptoms may include:
- Altered mental status (stupor, confusion, decreased awareness)
- Blue-colored lips (cyanosis)
- Breathing difficulty
- Coma (unresponsiveness, lack of consciousness)
- Enlarged (dilated) pupils
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid collapse
- Slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat
- Stomach pain
- Tremor (shaking of the arms or legs)
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 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
- Breathing support, including oxygen through a tube through the mouth into the lungs, and a breathing machine ventilator)
- 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.
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.
Lim CS, Aks SE. Plants, mushrooms, and herbal medications. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 158.
Yarnell EL. Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew). In: Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 5th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2021:chap 118.
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.