Posted by Claudia Grazioso on December 29, 2011
A mainstay of holiday cheer is the potted poinsettia. It seems like every year at this time, friends arrive with bright red, big-leafed poinsettias and even as I am saying my thanks, oohing and aahing over the lovely bit of holiday charm it will add to my living room, I am thinking, “Why? Why would you do this to me?” Poinsettias, I have been told, are poisonous. Toxic. Harmful.
This fact has been ingrained in my head since I was a child and my own parents shooed me away from the deadly jungle of holiday plants that would arrive every year. “Don’t touch them,” they would warn ominously. And, of course, since we always received about a dozen of them, it was almost impossible not to touch them in our small living room… which may be why I spent a fair part of the holidays riddled with anxiety. Not only might I be on the naughty list, but I might be killed by a plant in my own house. Some gift.
So this year, when the first poinsettia arrived, I craftily planned to chuck it as soon as our guest left. But before I did that, I decided to look into exactly how toxic these Christmas plants are. And… hold onto your Santa hats… they’re not. Consider it a holiday gift: You can take the fear of the Poison Poinsettia off your Things To Worry About list.
So where does this rumor come from? Poinsettias belong to a class of plant that has some other highly-toxic, very poisonous members. In other words, it has some nasty cousins. But the poinsettia itself is pretty safe. According to some medical experts, a child weighing about 50 pounds would have to eat approximately 500 leaves before even possibly hitting a toxic level. At the five hundred-leaf mark, a person might experience nausea and vomiting, but still there would likely be no lasting bodily damage. And since I personally have never seen a child eat five hundred of any kind of leaf, I’m thinking this is not something I have to spend too much time worrying about this Christmas season.
The only possible concern regarding poinsettias is if a person or child is allergic to them. Usually, if a person has sensitivity to or an outright allergy to latex, they might well be allergic to poinsettias as well. So, of course, if you see the signs of an allergic reaction, get medical help promptly. Other than that, sit back and enjoy the holiday charm these plants add to your home.