The Another

    “All it takes is a few teaspoons of homemade pesto to get intoxicated” – Liberation



    Collecting wild plants is not without risk. Poison control centers report one to two deaths per year due to confusion between poisonous and edible plants. Explanations with Sandra Sinno-Tellier, toxicovigilance coordinator at the National Health Security Agency.

    Spring is a call to the outdoors. And among the seasonal outings, the picking of certain edible wild plants is a popular activity – even lucrative and, in recent years, in full professionalization. Evidenced by the proliferation of books (I cook wild plants, ed. living lands, or wild edible plants, ed. Ulmer, for example) YouTube channels or guided walks and courses. But as with the collection of mushrooms in the fall, more or less amateur pickers expose themselves to risks. This is the case if they inadvertently confuse colchicum and wild garlic in their forest escapades, alert this week the National Health Security Agency (ANSES). With the consequence, if the weed is consumed, poisoning which can prove fatal. For Liberated, Sandra Sinno-Tellier, assistant to the director of health alerts and vigilance and coordinator of toxicovigilance at ANSES, provides some recommendations to avoid these poisonings.

    What should be paid attention to when picking wild plants for consumption?

    Do not confuse edible plants with poisonous plants! Fortunately, many wild plants are safe to eat, but poisonings have also been regularly reported by poison control centers for several years. This is why we call for vigilance. It is therefore necessary to be sure of what you pick and in the slightest doubt not to consume the collected plant and to throw it away. It can happen to everyone to make a mistake and you can get help from a pharmacist or a botanist to identify it.

    One of the most frequent confusions, in the spring, is that between colchicum, the consumption of which can be fatal, and wild garlic or, more rarely, with wild leek. It is favored by the fact that the leaves of these three plants are similar, unlike their flowers. And since colchicum does not bloom in the spring, pickers often think of picking up wild garlic. It is also recommended not to pick in batches. Because the two plants are found in the undergrowth in the same place, and a few colchicum leaves can be enough for serious poisoning. To identify them, a trick is to crumple a sheet. That of wild garlic really smells of the eye while colchicum leaf has a bitter taste, a sign to spit it out if one has eaten it by mistake.

    Are PlantNet type recognition applications relevant to avoid these confusions?

    It is a help and it can be interesting to identify a plant using them. They give relevant, fair and accurate information, but they can also be wrong in other cases. We do not dissuade them from using them, but when we have a doubt about the identification of a plant, we must not rely solely on the information given by the application. You have to ask an expert. And then, beforehand, do not go unexpectedly to a picking corner and ask a botanist to find out what you are going to pick up in nature, since there may be risks. In any case, it is always necessary to inquire and pick knowingly: is it the season for such and such a plant? Which ones can be deadly?

    What risks are we exposing ourselves to?

    It can lead to death. And all it takes is a few teaspoons of homemade pesto or a slice of quiche to get intoxicated. This is the case with colchicum leaves, but it is also true for saffron oenanthus. It is a deadly plant, which grows well in the slopes and whose tuber is confused with that of wild carrots. One to two deaths related to the consumption of wild plants are also brought to our attention depending on the year. But the data is not exhaustive and serious cases are underestimated. There are also risks of more benign poisoning with digestive disorders, nausea, diarrhea. Until severe disorders, such as cardiac or neurological disorders which may require hospitalization in intensive care. A quarter of the 9,000 annual calls to poison control centers related to the ingestion of plants are symptomatic.

    What to do in case of poisoning?

    First of all, it is advisable to photograph a wild plant before cooking, preparing and consuming it. That way, if there is poisoning, it will be a great help to allow poison control centers to identify it. If a plant has an unusual or unpleasant taste, it should be spit out immediately. In the event of poisoning, if the symptoms threaten the vital prognosis, such as loss of consciousness or respiratory distress, you must immediately call 15 or 114 for the deaf and hard of hearing. Otherwise, at the slightest symptom, call a poison control center and consult a doctor.

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