What's Happening

Update: It wasn’t insecticide poisoning after all

Kathy Jentz reports that two local TV stations are updating the case of suspected insecticide poisoning with the news that it was actually Datura poisoning.  They called it "jimson weed" but Datura’s the Latin name.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_stramonium
for more.

Posted by on July 11, 2008 at 9:00 am, in the category What's Happening.
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11 responses to “Update: It wasn’t insecticide poisoning after all”

  1. Kitt says:

    Aha. Yes, that would be nasty. And certainly, if you’re harvesting a bunch of mint, it would be easy to miss a stalk of some sneaky weed in the middle if you weren’t hyper-vigilant.

    Here’s a link to the news story:

    http://www.nbc4.com/news/16849591/detail.html

  2. Beth says:

    Holy moly. My aunt just gave me some seedlings of this, calling them “moon flowers.” I don’t think I want this in my garden where my 2 year old occasionally sticks a leaf or stick in her mouth.

  3. tai haku says:

    Beth – Datura, of any species, are totally not a plant for gardens with kids….this is the same genus from which the potion used to put victims under for a few days and create “zombies” is derived.

    http://tai-haku.blogspot.com/2007/07/some-kind-of-voodoo.html

  4. Reading Dirt says:

    Just another reason why I keep telling people that “all natural” does NOT necessarily mean “safe!”

  5. lawremc says:

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how someone would mistake this for a culinary herb.

    Interesting wikipedia notes it was used by various cultures in religious ceremonies.

    From wikipedia
    Datura stramonium is native to either India or Central America. It was used as a mystical sacrament in both possible places of origin. The Native Americans have used this plant in sacred ceremonies. In some tribes datura was involved in the ceremonies of manhood. The sadhus of Hinduism also used datura as a spiritual tool, smoking it with cannabis in their traditional chillums.

  6. Rosella says:

    Datura was supposedly the drug given to Indian widows to keep them calm as they committed “suttee” on their husbands’ funeral pyres. Interesting, that, because the family that fell ill was an Indian family! But in this area (a DC suburb not far from them), I get volunteer datura metel seedlings in my garden all the time — I will look very carefully at my mint in future!

  7. DJ Monet says:

    Hey! Someone called this in the original post! Didn;t they? I was certainly skeptical of the pesticides thing because hallucinations was more of a plant-based reaction.

  8. bs says:

    holy ****.

    i bet they had an exciting journey. datura is one of my favorite reads on erowid.
    http://www.erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Datura.shtml

    in case the link doesn’t work for you, these are descriptions of hallucinations. titles include:
    “in the mouth of madness”
    “i lost my pets and almost burned the house down”

    and my personal favorite:
    “eating bugs while my friends convulsed”

  9. grouchylisa says:

    DJMonet, Datura was one of the plants I thought might be responsible, although I thought that potato leaves were the more likely culprit (both having the same alkaloids). I was the one who wanted to know whether the patients’ pupils were abnormally enlarged or pinpoint, because that could give some indication of what the toxic substance was and was not.

    I get very frustrated when news reports don’t contain enough information to tell what’s really going on (most recently I was extremely frustrated with the autism gene reports because they didn’t mention the publication or the genes). I suppose I could try getting a degree in journalism but I’d probably get booted from the program for walloping my classmates on the head for “being stupid”.

  10. I’m so with you Grouchylisa – hearing the initial symptom reports I was like “that is clearly Datura!” and these post-reports were just as stupid as on the air they never used the Latin name or one of the many common names used for it around it including “Angel’s Trumpet.”
    PS I would NEVER have this in a garden where toddlers may roam.

  11. Jon says:

    Well, it seems that the poison was natural. This should remind us that chemicals are chemicals whether they are man-made or natural. It is unlikely that the people poisoned feel better that the poison they ingested was “natural”.

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