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Various myths surround the balloon flower, since it is used as a remedy in Chinese medicine, but in all parts of us it is poisonous. The ornamental plant is undeniably a welcome ornamental plant in gardens and on the terrace, but it is not suitable as an accessory on the plate or as food. The greatest danger is not for people themselves, but for animals.


Its use as a remedy in Chinese medicine

Not only in China, but also in Korea and Japan, balloon flowers are an integral part of natural medicine. The roots are mainly used, although the leaves are also eaten in cooked form. Tinctures are brewed and juices made from the roots, which are said to be effective against the following diseases.

  • colds
  • bronchitis
  • fever
  • cancer
  • immunodeficiency


In Chinese medicine, the leaves are considered harmless when young. Old leaves, on the other hand, are considered toxic and are therefore only used in small quantities as a tea or powder.


The roots of the plant are also used in Korean cuisine as a soup ingredient. They have a strong taste and are said to strengthen the immune system.


Balloon flower poisonous to animals

For animals

Animals react much more strongly than humans to the consumption of balloon flowers. All parts of the plant are mildly to moderately toxic to pets, depending on the dose. Chinese medicines made from the root should also not be used on pets.

The saponin contained in the root is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect. In animals, on the other hand, irritation of the mucous membranes can occur. It is therefore always advisable not to plant balloon flowers within the reach of children and animals. In terms of toxicity, there is little difference between the flowers, stems and roots of the plant. However, the root has a somewhat stronger effect, since it contains the most saponins.

The following symptoms are possible in animals:

  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • stomach pain
  • Mucosal irritation in the mouth (aphthae)
  • diarrhea
  • Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract

The severity of the symptoms basically depends on the amount consumed. It also plays a role whether balloon flowers are eaten raw or cooked. The amount of saponins contained decreases significantly when the root is boiled. Even in Chinese medicine, the plant parts are never used raw.

For the people

Toxicity from human consumption of balloon flower

Boiled and prepared parts of balloon flowers are safe for human consumption. However, all raw components are poisonous, as well as very old leaves. The symptoms that occur are only slightly pronounced in humans, only small children and babies have an increased risk of severe symptoms.

Most often it comes to:

  • abdominal pain and stomach pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea

Overdoses of medicinal products made from balloon flowers do not lead to any symptoms worth mentioning. It can be assumed that the toxic substances are almost completely destroyed by the cooking process.


What measures are to be taken in the event of poisoning?

If small children or pets have eaten large quantities of balloon flower in its raw state, medical advice is required. Even if the symptoms are only mild, there is a risk of permanent damage to the mucous membrane. Animals are particularly affected by this. The sensitive gastric mucosa can become inflamed, resulting in painful gastritis. The treatment extends over several stages. In the first instance, the administration of liquid and medicinal charcoal tries to bind the poison in the body. The second step is to alleviate the symptoms. Nausea and vomiting can be relieved with travel medication, diarrhea should not be stopped.

Vomiting and diarrhea expel the toxins from the body more quickly, which is why veterinarians often refrain from relieving symptoms in animals. It is necessary to keep fluid intake high, otherwise there is a risk of dehydration. Severe diarrhea can also lead to an electrolyte shift, which should be compensated for with medication.


What precautions are possible?

Since the balloon flower is a popular plant, it can be found in many gardens or on balconies. To keep the risk of accidental consumption low, the plant should be kept out of the reach of children or pets. There are also numerous non-toxic ornamental plants that represent a possible alternative.

Even if there are recipes on the Internet for the preparation of seemingly health-promoting medicines, the balloon flowers from the garden should not be used to make your own medicine. If you want to use this plant as a remedy, you will find ready-made medicine in pharmacies and corresponding shops.


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