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The berries of the holly look inviting, but they should not be eaten under any circumstances. The drupes are highly toxic to both humans and pets!
From October it is usually time, the fruits of the holly are ripe. The fruit-bearing holly beautifies many a garden visually and the animal world is also happy about the winter berries. Because the small fruits are a welcome meal for many birds. People and pets should keep their distance from the fruits, because they are extremely poisonous!


Holly is poisonous!

In principle, all organs of the ileum are considered poisonous. However, caution is advised, especially with the fruits and leaves. Because they contain triterpenes and the leaves contain saponins - both substances that are toxic to humans. But that wasn't all the toxins, because the plant also contains:

  • ilicin
  • menisdaurine
  • routine
  • urolic acid

notice: Which toxin actually triggers the symptoms has not yet been clarified at this point in time. However, it is assumed that the highest concentration of toxins is in the fruit.


When is consumption dangerous?

Ideally, the small fruits should not be nibbled at all, because even eating two pieces can cause symptoms of poisoning. When these occur and what measures should be taken depends on the amount of berries consumed.

  • up to 5 pieces: drink plenty of water
  • more than 5 pieces: medicinal charcoal
  • from 10 pieces: gastric emptying
  • 20-30 pieces: life-threatening

notice: If there is a suspicion of poisoning, a doctor should always be consulted in case of doubt!

Be careful with children and pets

While adults can usually consume some winter berries without severe side effects, caution is advised with children and small pets (like dogs or cats)! Because even the smallest amounts can be toxic and, in the worst case, even life-threatening.

  • Children: 2 fruits can already trigger nausea
  • Remove winter berries from branches to be on the safe side
  • Caution: dry specimens fall off!
  • Pets: symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea

Whether dogs or cats have eaten a berry can usually be seen from their behavior. Because most fur noses shake their heads excessively afterwards and drool more. The prickly fruits can also cause injuries in the mouth area.


If the winter berries are consumed in large quantities, typical symptoms of poisoning can occur shortly after ingestion. It is important to note that not everyone has all of the symptoms.

  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sleepiness
  • paralysis
  • changes in consciousness

notice: As soon as poisoning is suspected, it is essential to drink plenty of water and consult a doctor! Especially if the fruit has been eaten by children or pets.

Holly in homeopathy

Although winter berries are not suitable for consumption, they are still used in homeopathy. However, the use of these agents is not without controversy because of the toxins they contain. Experimenting on your own is therefore not recommended, but should always be discussed with a doctor. The Ilex is used in herbal medicine for flu and colds, among other things. But the plant is also said to provide relief for fever and cramps, as well as whooping cough and side stitches. Because the holly is said to have the following healing effects:

  • antispasmodic
  • expectorant
  • gut-regulating
  • cold soothing
  • antipyretic
  • diuretic
  • anti-rheumatic

notice: Please note that this article is by no means a substitute for a doctor's visit. There is no guarantee of the correctness of medical statements.
Detailed information on first aid in the event of poisoning and important information on the poison control centers can be found here.

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