American mistletoe exposures

Am J Emerg Med. 1997 Sep;15(5):516-20. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(97)90199-6.


American mistletoe is generally considered to be extremely toxic. Although there are no data to support this contention, both the lay public and medical professionals often respond very aggressively after ingestion of any portion of this plant. To determine if American mistletoe is deserving of this reputation, the outcomes of 1,754 exposures to this plant were examined. All mistletoe data extracted from the American Association of Poison Control Centers national data collection system for the period of 1985 to 1992 were analyzed according to patient age, gastrointestinal decontamination therapy, patient outcome, and geographic region of the exposure. Pediatric exposures accounted for 92.1% of the cases, and 94.7% of the reported cases were accidental exposures. Of all cases, 99.2% had an outcome associated with no morbidity, and there were no fatalities. Apparently, patient outcome was not influenced by the use of gastrointestinal decontamination techniques-96.2% of treated patients remained asymptomatic versus 96.3% of patients who received no therapy. The accidental ingestion of American mistletoe is not associated with profound toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mistletoe*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Poisoning / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology