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Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis

They show beautiful white flowers in spring, the shape of which is reminiscent of a nun's or maid's bonnet: lily of the valley (lat. Convallaria majalis). The plant comes from the asparagus family and is found in almost all of Europe. The plants grow mainly in beech and deciduous oak forests, but the plant can also be found along paths or even in gardens.

lily of the valley

As beautiful and fragrant as the small plants with their flowers and later with the red berries may be, they are unfortunately very poisonous and therefore pose a serious health risk to humans and animals. More details on the occurrence and ingredients of the lily of the valley can be found in all of them common nature and plant guides.


Which parts of the plant are poisonous

All parts of the lily of the valley are poisonous, from the stems and leaves to the roots, flowers and berries. The toxins also do not disappear when the plant dries. Poisoning in connection with the plant can therefore occur relatively quickly. There is a risk that children in particular will ingest the poisons through their mouths by putting the flowers and later the red berries in their mouths, including touching them with their hands and their subsequent contact with their mouths.

The only advantage of a possible poisoning with the components of the lily of the valley is that the body can only absorb the poison in very small quantities and that children usually only want to taste a small part of the plants because they are simply curious about the taste. This means that the amount of toxins absorbed is also low. As a result, poisonings remain unpleasant, but in most cases they end lightly.


What toxins do plants contain?

Lily of the valley contains cardenolide-type glycosides, which produce a strong cardiac response. The highest concentration of glycosides is found in the flowers and seeds of the plant. This is exactly why the plant was already popular in earlier centuries as a remedy for heart problems. The lily of the valley used to be called Salus Mundi, salvation for the world, and for a while it even represented the professional emblem of doctors. Today there are again various medicines that contain a dose of plant components that the body can tolerate. Most medicines are given for heart problems such as cardiac arrhythmia. The recommended dose must be strictly adhered to.

health risk

The health risks for humans

For the people

The first signs of poisoning from components of the lily of the valley can be nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This is usually accompanied by dizziness or drowsiness, cramps in the gastrointestinal tract and even visual disturbances. Depending on the severity of the poisoning and the physical constitution of the person affected, cardiac insufficiency, a slow pulse and cardiac arrhythmia can occur. In particularly bad cases, consuming parts of the lily of the valley can even lead to fatal poisoning.

Collect wild garlic:

  • Danger of confusing the leaves with those of the lily of the valley

Incidentally, there is a high risk of confusion when collecting wild garlic. Since the lily of the valley blooms at the same time as the autumn crocus and wild garlic, the leaves of these plants, which look very similar, can be confused. In contrast to wild garlic, lily of the valley and autumn crocus are poisonous. If in doubt, the tuber should be dug up as well, since you can use it to determine exactly which of the three plants it is. A good idea is to visit a person who knows herbs before the supposed wild garlic is processed further. Experts know exactly what the plants look like.

The correct reaction when touched or eaten

If you come into contact with the poisonous lily of the valley, simply washing your hands and rinsing your mouth with water is by no means enough. Regardless of whether it affects children or adults, an ambulance must be called immediately. If necessary, inform the Poison Information Center. Until the arrival of the emergency doctor, the vital functions of the body such as the pulse and breathing must be checked continuously. If you have medicinal charcoal in the household, you can give it to the person concerned as a first quick measure against the poisoning. Further tips and information are available from the poison information center or from the Apotheken Umschau.

For pets

What are the risks for animals such as cats and dogs

Just as it is dangerous for humans to come into contact with the components of lily of the valley, so is it for pets such as dogs or cats. The plants are also poisonous to animals. Young animals in particular, with their strong urge to play and explore, like to sniff and taste everything that nature has to offer. It is therefore advisable to search the garden and the surrounding area for the plants and perhaps even move them to a safer place in good time.

If dogs or cats have eaten parts of the lily of the valley, the same symptoms can occur as in humans: diarrhea or vomiting, nausea, dizziness and even convulsions are signs of poisoning and must be treated quickly by a veterinarian. Cases of poisoning in pets are also to be reported to the poison information center. You can find more information about poisoning in animals at, the online magazine about animals.

For children

More tips for young parents

Many families today want a garden for the children and a way to grow vegetables and fruit and thus fulfill their dream of gardening themselves. Before gardening begins, the new environment should be inspected for poisonous plants. It is best to observe the garden all year round and get to know it that way. Any poisonous plants such as the lily of the valley can be discovered in good time and, if necessary, dug up and moved to a safe place. So that there is no contact with the plant in the first place.

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