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Bow Hemp is a very popular houseplant, valued not only for its exotic looks but also for its air-purifying qualities. Because it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen at night, it often stands in the bedroom right next to the bed. But is arch hemp poisonous and therefore a danger to children, cats and dogs?

bow hemp

Advantages and disadvantages of the plant

Bow hemp (also known as mother-in-law's tongue, Latin Sansevieria, belongs to the asparagus family) not only contributes to improving the air quality, but also gets by with partially shaded locations, little water and little care. And last but not least, their upright, sword-shaped, thick-fleshed leaves are a visual eye-catcher. No wonder, then, that the undemanding plant is at home with many people. But if you have small children, cats, dogs or rodents at home, you have to be careful, because bow tie is poisonous.

Short for clarification:

The word toxic is a relative term, and the severity of poisoning will always depend on the exposure (amount ingested) and the size of the child or pet. Some plants classified as poisonous cause acute and serious or even life-threatening symptoms even in small quantities, while others only cause short-term irritation, such as in the mouth, skin, stomach or respiratory tract.


Bow Hemp Plant: Poison Strength and Possible Symptoms

Sansevieria is considered a mildly toxic/potentially toxic plant, with leaves and flowers among the toxic parts of the plant. Although the toxin saponin was detected in bow-tie hemp, no cases of poisoning from practice are described in the literature. This is partly due to the fact that the foliage is very tough and leathery, which makes it difficult to eat and in German latitudes the plant only flowers with extremely good care. On the other hand, irritating substances are deliberately bred out of commercially cultivated indoor plants. There are only records of isolated cases of contact dermatitis in humans. As a rule, however, there is no danger if you touch a Sansevieria bought in a local shop. If Sansevieria is consumed, people and animals may salivate, vomit and have diarrhea. In addition, the toxin saponin has a hemolytic effect, which means that it leads to the breakdown of red blood cells.

toxic effect

Findings from animal experiments

Animal experiments have shown that rats with a body weight of 102 to 151 grams died after intraperitoneal injection of an extract of wild hemp plants from a dose of more than 600 mg/kg body weight. When taken orally, a concentration of 18,000 mg/kg body weight was lethal. Animal experiments on mice showed that eating flowers is more dangerous than eating leaves. Naturally, there are no scientific experiments on humans. As noted above, cases of poisoning rarely occur in practice, so there are no records of them in the medical and veterinary literature. The suspicion is that the toxin is not contained in relevant concentrations in indoor plants. Nevertheless, the parts of the plant, both fresh and dried, can pose a danger, especially for small children and small animals.


Irritation and poisoning from sansevieria: how to act correctly

If you develop eczema (rash) on yourself, a child, a cat, dog or other pet after direct contact with the leaves or flowers of Sansevieria, immediately rinse the affected skin thoroughly with cool water. If the rash does not go away on its own or if it worsens, a general practitioner, dermatologist, or veterinarian should be contacted.

If a piece of sansevieria has been eaten or chewed on, you should initially remain calm. In the case of children and animals, it is important to remove any plant remains from the mouth and drink them with still water (tea or juice is possible for children). Carbonated drinks, salt water and milk are taboo. No attempt should be made to induce vomiting. If you have symptoms or just want to be safe, call your local poison control center.

On the phone, a poisons expert will ask you the following questions:

  • How old is the child/patient?
  • What was taken? Which plant and which part of this plant?
  • Was the plant swallowed or just chewed on? Or is it skin contact?
  • How much was taken? (Estimate how much of the foliage is missing)
  • When did it happen?
  • Does the patient show symptoms? (Like salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain)
  • What has already been done? (rinse, drink)

Then follow the recommendations of the poison expert! In most cases the all-clear can be given.

Notice: If you need a doctor's appointment with your child or pet, take a piece of bow tie with you. In this way, the doctor can identify the plant without a doubt and, if necessary, use it for further analysis.

Tip: Always keep your bow tie out of reach to avoid potential child and pet poisoning accidents. The risk can be reduced by using higher furniture such as bookshelves, cupboards or the refrigerator as a place for the exotic sansevieria. In any case, you do not have to dispose of your plant, even if it is potentially poisonous.

Quick Reader Tips

  • slightly poisonous / potentially poisonous plant for humans and animals
  • all parts of the plant poisonous (flowers and leaves)
  • contains the poison saponin
  • may cause skin irritation in rare cases
  • may cause salivation, vomiting and diarrhea if consumed
  • Poisoning with bow tie is extremely rare in practice

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