Numerous pharmacologically-active substances are produced by plants and many pharmaceutical agents and recreational drugs are of plant origin. Serious human poisoning from plant exposures is however extremely rare.
Exposure to toxic plants may occur unintentionally when they are mistakenly identified as edible plants or when young children ingest parts of plants, usually berries or seeds. Intentional exposure to toxic plants occurs with recreational or medicinal intent or, less commonly, as an attempt at deliberate self-harm. It often involves the ingestion of teas made from the plant. Non-intentional cutaneous and ocular exposures may also cause symptoms.
Assessment of plant exposures is difficult even when the plant is positively identified because it is virtually impossible to quantify dose; there is enormous variation in toxin concentrations between species, plant part, location and season.
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