Plant-induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem

J Neurol. 1999 Aug;246(8):667-70. doi: 10.1007/s004150050429.


Several plant-derived essential oils have been known for over a century to have epileptogenic properties. We report three healthy patients, two adults and one child, who suffered from an isolated generalized tonic-clonic seizure and a generalized tonic status, respectively, related to the absorption of several of these oils for therapeutic purposes. No other cause of epilepsy was found, and outcome was good in the two adult cases, but the course has been less favorable in the child. A survey of the literature shows essential oils of 11 plants to be powerful convulsants (eucalyptus, fennel, hyssop, pennyroyal, rosemary, sage, savin, tansy, thuja, turpentine, and wormwood) due to their content of highly reactive monoterpene ketones, such as camphor, pinocamphone, thujone, cineole, pulegone, sabinylacetate, and fenchone. Our three cases strongly support the concept of plant-related toxic seizure. Nowadays the wide use of these compounds in certain unconventional medicines makes this severe complication again possible.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy, Tonic-Clonic / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oils, Volatile / adverse effects*
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils