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J Med Toxicol. 2011 Mar;7(1):47-51. doi: 10.1007/s13181-010-0102-x.

Nicotiana glauca (tree tobacco) intoxication--two cases in one family.

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  • 1Medicine Division, Department of Internal Medicine B, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, 12 Bayit Street, Jerusalem, 91031, Israel.


We present two cases of rare human poisoning in one family following ingestion of cooked leaves from the tobacco tree plant, Nicotiana glauca. The toxic principle of N. glauca, anabasine (C10H14N2), is a small pyridine alkaloid, similar in both structure and effects to nicotine, but appears to be more potent in humans. A 73-year-old female tourist from France, without remarkable medical history, collapsed at home following a few hours long prodrome of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and malaise. The symptoms developed shortly after eating N. glauca cooked leaves that were collected around her daughter's house in Jerusalem and mistaken for wild spinach. She was found unconscious, with dilated pupils and extreme bradycardia. Following resuscitation and respiratory support, circulation was restored. However, she did not regain consciousness and died 20 days after admission because of multi-organ failure. Anabasine was identified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry method in N. glauca leaves and in the patient's urine. Simultaneously, her 18-year-old grandson developed weakness and myalgia after ingesting a smaller amount of the same meal. He presented to the same emergency room in a stable condition. His exam was remarkable only for sinus bradycardia. He was discharged without any specific treatment. He recovered in 24 h without any residual sequelae. These cases raise an awareness of the potential toxicity caused by ingestion of tobacco tree leaves and highlight the dangers of ingesting botanicals by lay public. Moreover, they add to the clinical spectrum of N. glauca intoxication.

© American College of Medical Toxicology 2010

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