Health and Medicine

First Aid and Poisons

Which part of mistletoe is poisonous?

The most common opinion today is that Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), Emperor of France from 1804 to 1815, died of a cancerous, perforated stomach. A significant minority of doctors and historians have made other claims ranging from various diseases to benign neglect to outright homicide. A Swedish toxicologist, Sten Forshufvud (1903–1985), advanced the theory that Napoleon died from arsenic administered by an agent of the French Royalists who was planted in Napoleon’s household during his final exile on the island of St. Helena.

The white berries contain toxic amines, which cause acute stomach and intestinal irritation with diarrhea and a slow pulse. Mistletoe should be considered a potentially dangerous Christmas decoration, especially if children are around.


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