nerium

Showing 3 posts tagged nerium

Nerium aka Oleander



Nerium oleander is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the dogbane family Apocynaceae. It is most commonly known as oleander, from its superficial resemblance to the unrelated olive Olea, but has many other names.  It is widely cultivated that no precise region of origin has been identified, though southwest Asia has been suggested. The ancient city of Volubilis in Morocco took its name from the old Latin name for the flower. Oleander is one of the most poisonous of commonly grown garden plants.

Toxicity

Nerium oleander has historically been considered a poisonous plant based on a number of its compounds that may exhibit toxicity, especially to animals, when consumed in high amounts. Among these compounds are oleandrin and oleandrigenin, known as “cardiac glycosides" which are known to have a narrow therapeutic index and can be toxic when ingested.

Despite the common “poisonous" designation of this plant, very few toxic events in humans have been reported. According to the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS) in 2002 there were 847 human exposures to oleander reported to poison centers in the United States. 

 Despite this exposure level, from 1985 through 2005, only three deaths were reported. One cited death was apparently due to the ingestion of oleander leaves by a diabetic man. His blood indicated a total blood concentration of cardiac glycosides above the reported fatal level.

Another study reported on the death of a woman who self-administered “an undefined oleander extract” both orally and rectally and her oleandrin tissue levels were in the high range of reported levels at autopsy. And, finally, one study reported the death of a woman who ingested oleander ‘tea’.

Effects of poisoning

Ingestion can cause both gastrointestinal and cardiac effects. The gastrointestinal effects can consist of nausea and vomiting, excess salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhea that may or may not contain blood. Cardiac reactions consist of an irregular heart which results in the person becoming pale and cold due to the poor or irregular circulation.

Reactions to poisonings from this plant can also affect the central nervous system. These symptoms can include drowsiness, tremors or shaking of the muscles, seizures, collapse, and even coma that can lead to death. Oleander sap can cause skin irritations, severe eye inflammation and irritation, and allergic reactions characterized by dermatitis.

Medical treatment required

Poisoning and reactions to oleander plants are evident quickly, requiring immediate medical care in suspected or known poisonings of both humans and animals. Induced vomiting and temporary cardiac pacing will be required in many cases (usually for a few days) till the toxin is excreted.

Therapeutic efficacy

Historically, Nerium oleander has been reported in ancient texts and folklore for more than 1500 years. Used traditionally by herbalists as a folk remedy for a wide variety of maladies and conditions, including dermatitis, abscesses, eczema, psoriasis, sores, warts, corns, ringworm, scabies, herpes, skin cancer, asthma, dysmenorrheal, epilepsy, malaria, abortifacients, emetics, heart tonics, and tumors. It has been used extensively for medicinal purposes in Mediterranean and Central and Southern Asian countries, although these applications also have their basis in folk medicine and efficacy has not been documented by clinical research.