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In spring, they fascinate us with their magnificent flowers in bright colors. Very tempting for creative hobby cooks to decorate food and drinks with the flowers. Where peonies bloom and exude their alluring scent, they also attract curious cats and dogs to nibble on them. For insatiable horses, all plants are found food anyway. The question arises, are peonies poisonous? Read the answer here.

Alkaloid paeonin spoils the appetite

The flowers of numerous plants have found their way into modern kitchens to artistically decorate cold and warm dishes. Consequently, the temptation is great to also use the majestic blossoms of a peony to add a culinary touch to fresh dishes.

Likewise, the lush green leaves could tempt you to prepare them in a salad or turn the fleshy roots into a tasty vegetable. Of course, this plan could upset you and your guests. All parts of peonies contain the alkaloid paeonine, which is toxic to humans in large amounts.

Intentional or unintentional consumption causes these unpleasant symptoms of poisoning:

  • Severe nausea
  • Stomach and intestinal cramps
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • Severe colic

A single petal or a few seeds of a Paeonia will not cause these ailments. However, there is a lack of well-founded scientific knowledge as to where the critical dose begins. Therefore, it makes sense, especially in the family garden with small children, to settle peonies out of the reach of small arms and wide mouths. Older children should be specifically made aware of the dangers of eating flowers, leaves, seeds and roots.

Tips for first aid measures

If adults or children show typical symptoms of poisoning, please remain calm. Due to the low concentration of toxic substances, no life-threatening incidents have been reported so far. With the following prudent measures, you can keep the extent of the health problems resulting from the consumption of peonies within tolerable limits.


  • remove any plant remains from children's mouths
  • Drink still water or chamomile tea in small sips
  • Milk is completely unsuitable as an antidote
  • Never use salt water to induce vomiting in affected people

As a precaution, you should telephone your family doctor or pediatrician even if you have minor symptoms. If the doctor recommends a visit to the practice, take the parts of the plant with you in a bag. If in doubt, call the responsible poison control center to obtain competent advice.

Toxic to dogs and cats

Just as the substances in peonies upset people's stomachs, dogs and cats are not immune either. The smaller the animal, the greater the risk of symptoms of poisoning. This means that puppies and young kittens are primarily at risk because they are extremely curious and have not yet received extensive training.

Older pets are rarely affected by snacking on a hare rose. Since Paeonia are classified as slightly poisonous, health-threatening amounts are rarely consumed.

Tips for immediate action

If your pet shows typical symptoms of poisoning, immediately check its mouth for plant remains. Take this out and secure the material in a plastic bag. Signs of poisoning include increased salivation, convulsive movements, apathy, and disorientation.

Transport the dog or cat to the nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible and take the secured plant material with you. Attempts at self-medication could exacerbate the dilemma.

Toxic to horses

Peonies are assigned to the mildly poisonous plants for horses. Compared to dogs and cats, a steed appears enormous; nevertheless, the animals react very sensitively to toxins affecting the stomach. Just a few bits of ivy can kill a horse in agony. Paeonia are far removed from such a potential danger. Nevertheless, the plant parts should not get within reach of the animals. This includes that clippings should not be disposed of in paddocks and meadows.

Life-threatening for small animals

Life-threatening for hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits

The leaves of peonies are definitely not suitable as green fodder. All parts of the plant pose a deadly threat to rodents such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. Therefore, please make sure that the animals do not come within reach of peonies in the outdoor enclosure. It's not safe to assume that your instincts will sound the alarm given the enticing leaves.

In expert hands a medicinal plant

Magical powers were attributed to peonies as early as the Middle Ages. The legendary healer Hildegard von Bingen swore by the medical effectiveness of the red flowering Paeonia officinalis to cure fever, gout, epilepsy, children's and women's diseases.

All parts of the plant, such as blossoms, leaves, seeds and roots, were used because they are permeated with alkaloids, glycosides, tannins and essential oils. In the absence of credible evidence of a medical indication, the peony disappeared from the pharmacy books.

It is strongly discouraged to prepare it yourself, as the plant parts do more harm than good if the wrong dosage is used. This also applies to the roots of Chinese tree peonies, which still play an important role in Asian medicine today.

Peonies have been prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 1,200 years and are still included as a component in 40 percent of all prescriptions. The same applies here as to the European perennial Paeonia that they are poisonous to humans and animals if processed improperly.

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