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Privet hedges are among the most popular ornamental shrubs in our latitudes. The robust plants are dense and grow impressively in height. Because they stay green longer during the winter months, they are popular planted in parks and public areas. Privet hedges are also very common in home gardens. The plant from the olive tree family is not only attractive because of its lush green. The large, fragrant, cream-colored to white flowers and black berries growing in clusters are attractive. However, the privet hedge is poisonous.


Toxic parts of the plant

Almost all components of the privet hedge are toxic. Traces of the toxins are found in smaller doses in the bark and leaves. However, the highest concentration of poison is found in the berries of the privet hedge. The effect is mild to moderate and rarely leads to severe or fatal poisoning in humans.

Note:Especially for children, however, the poison concentrated in the berries can have a critical effect even in small doses. Even the consumption of just a few berries in small children to strong reactions. Larger amounts can even cause fatal poisoning.


Due to their rich black colour, the berries of the privet hedge are attractive to small children. Even if they don't eat the fruit, the danger is not over. When playing, children easily crush the ripe privet berries. If you then put your hands to your mouth, the amount of juice that sticks to the fruit can have a slightly poisoning effect.


The berries of the privet hedge contain ligustrone and syringin. Both substances belong to the class of bitter substances and have a stimulating effect on the circulatory system. Ligustron and syringin are also found in the other parts of the plant. Traces of glycosides are also found in the leaves of the plant. However, the amount of these substances is not sufficient to cause severe symptoms of poisoning.

Important: Glycosides belong to the sugar compounds. The leaves of the hedge can therefore develop a slightly sweet taste. Under certain circumstances, this encourages children to “taste” the berries of the bush.

toxin intake

This is how the poison gets into the body

Touching parts of the privet hedge is completely harmless for adults and children as well as for dogs and cats. The concentration of ligustron and syringin as well as glycoside in the bark and leaves is too low to have a toxic effect. If parts of the privet hedge, such as the leaves, are eaten, this only has a toxic effect in large quantities. The toxins are also contained in such small doses in the foliage that there is a risk of poisoning. However, moderate to severe symptoms of poisoning occur when eating the berries. The privet berries are poisonous to both humans and animals.

critical dose


For adults, eating fewer than 10 berries is safe. Slight symptoms of poisoning occur if between ten and twenty berries are eaten. Stronger signs of intoxication are manifested in healthy adults with more than twenty berries.


For children it can be assumed that more than five berries can have a critical effect. Therefore there is no tolerance range here. Children should be strictly forbidden from picking privetberries.

toxic effect

Occurring Symptoms

Ligustron and Syringin take effect immediately after consumption. They have a strong stimulating effect and stimulate the circulation. In high concentrations, both toxins literally ramp up the circulation of humans and animals. Heart palpitations occur, which in the worst case can develop into cardiac arrhythmias. Even if the poison in privet berries is rarely fatal, consuming the berries is dangerous for people with damage to the cardiovascular system.

Symptoms of mild to moderate privet poisoning include:

  • a headache
  • Vomit
  • Discomfort in the stomach and intestines

Critical symptoms are:

  • greatly dilated pupils
  • shortness of breath
  • severe dizziness
  • tachycardia

First aid

Nausea and vomiting are already signs of mild poisoning. If you only eat a few berries, giving a larger amount of liquid will help. This weakens the concentration of the poison in the body.

Important tips: Give the affected person only still water to drink. Under no circumstances should you administer the “home remedy” milk.


  • The fat contained in milk also makes it easier for the intestines to absorb the poison

Never induce vomiting on your own. This is especially dangerous for children. You lose a lot of fluid as a result. In addition, vomit can quickly enter the windpipe and lungs and cause suffocation. Regardless of the severity of the poisoning, you should call a doctor or go to the hospital emergency department. Severe poisoning leads to shortness of breath and unconsciousness and can be life-threatening. Heart and circulatory disorders, unconsciousness and respiratory arrest require immediate life-saving measures such as chest compressions and ventilation.

risks to animals

Risks for cats and dogs

Consumption of privet berries is far more dangerous for cats and dogs than it is for humans. The substances they contain have a highly toxic and therefore fatal effect on them, even in small doses. Cats that eat more than five berries can die from it. This amount can also cause serious poisoning in dogs. From ten berries, the critical amount is reached in dogs.

horses, pigs and birds

Did you know that even larger animals, such as horses or pigs, can die from the poison of the privet berry? Even birds are not immune to the deadly effects of the berries.

symptoms of poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning in cats are:

  • dilation of the pupils
  • shortness of breath
  • increase in body temperature
  • dizziness
  • saliva
  • Vomit

The deadly effect in animals occurs increased circulatory activity and disturbances in heart rhythm. This effect builds up over hours and can occur as a complication even after a poisoning that initially appears to be mild. It is therefore advisable to visit the veterinarian even if the symptoms are initially mild.

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