Taxus baccata toxicity

(Taxus baccata)


Photo of yew leaves and fruit
Photo of yew leaves and fruit (Taxus baccata)

Scientific noun: Taxus baccata L.

Common noun: Yew, English yew, European yew

Family: Taxaceae

Habitat: In humid forests of the European mountains, North of Africa and Western Asia. It is cultivated in gardening. (See cultivation details)

Components of Taxus baccata

The main active components of yew are the following:

  • Alkaloids: Taxine (leaves)
  • Glycosides: taxicantin (leaves) and taxiphyllin. (plant)
  • Taxol (mainly in the leaves)
  • Baccatin (wood)
  • Ephedrine (Leaves)
  • Acids: formic, tannic and gallic (leaves)
  • Vitamins: Vitamin A (fruit)

Active parts: Leaves, branches and seeds.

Description of Taxus baccata

Yew is a perennial tree of the Yew family – taxaceae – up to 20 m.

Erect stems, reddish.

Leaves dark green above, light green below, alternate, flat.

Not very conspicuous flowers; male and female ones on separate trees. The first ones yellowish: greenish the female.

Yew fruit is an aril, containing inside the seed.


Taxus baccata drawing
Taxus baccata drawing

– Medicinal remedies with Taxus baccata: Traditionally the fruits of this plant have been used as antitussive, emmenagogue, abortive, diuretic and laxative.

Being so dangerous, this plant should not be used in home-made medicine!!!

Medical properties of Taxus: It is being studied the use of taxol as anticarcenogenic

* Additional information: ” Taxus baccata and taxol “

Toxicity of Taxus baccata

  • The toxicity of yew is extreme. The mortal dose for adult is fixed in drinking the resulting liquid of cooking of 50 – 100 gr. of leaves in water. The toxicity of the plant is bigger in winter than in summer.
  • Some few leaves can be mortal in a child.
  • Yew seeds, although very toxic, are very protected so that is very difficult to ingest them.
  • Traditionally, it has been considered a poisonous tree, that has been exploited to manufacture arrows to poison enemies.

Are yew fruits poisonous?

Taxus baccata fruits (arils) are not toxic. They are very appreciated by animals, specially by birds that eat them.

Symptoms of poisoning by yew:

The main consequences of ingesting this plant are the following ones:

  • Sickness
  • Initial tachicardia with later decrease of the heart pulse.
  • Vomiting
  • Dryness in the mouth,
  • Blue lips
  • Cramps
  •  Dilation of the pupil,
  • Cardiorespiratory failure and death.

Poisoning takes place in a very short short time – from 30 to 60 minutes –

It is generally fatal and, in the event of overcoming it, sequels in the liver or kidneys may generally remain.

Medical treatment of yew poisoning

Gastric lavage, heart stimulants and artificial respiration.

punto rojo More information about plants.

This article was endorsed by Montserrat Enrich - Journalist specializing in edible wild plants and plant uses.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

11 July, 2020

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