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Jerusalem cherry poisoning

Definition

The Jerusalem cherry is a plant that belongs to the same family as the black nightshade. It has small, round, red and orange fruit. Jerusalem cherry poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of this plant.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Alternative Names

Christmas cherry poisoning; Winter cherry poisoning; Ground cherry poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

The poisonous ingredient is:

  • Solanocapsine

Where Found

The poison is found throughout the Jerusalem cherry plant, but especially in the unripened fruit and leaves.

Symptoms

The effects of Jerusalem cherry poisoning mostly affect the primarily gastrointestinal (often delayed 8 to10 hours), and central nervous system. This type of poisoning can be very dangerous. Other symptoms may include:

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care provider.

Before Calling Emergency

Get the following information:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name and part of the plant that was swallowed, if known
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids by IV (though the vein)
  • Laxatives
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed, and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Symptoms most often get better within 1 to 3 days, but hospitalization may be necessary. Death is uncommon.

DO NOT touch or eat any unfamiliar plant. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

References

Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 64.


Review Date: 11/4/2015
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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