Baptisia Poisoning: A New and Toxic Look-alike in the Neighborhood

Published:November 05, 2014DOI:



      Baptisia is commonly found in residential gardens as an ornamental plant, in municipal “rain gardens” for water control, as well as in native and restored prairie habitat. Cytisine, an alkaloid with nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist properties, is a component of Baptisia.

      Case Report

      Two patients poisoned after simultaneously ingesting Baptisia plant material are presented. In addition to findings of generalized nicotinic agonist toxicity, including generalized weakness and gastrointestinal symptoms, profound ataxia was present in both, consistent with recently described nicotinic subunit activity in the cerebellum.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?

      Baptisia, a native prairie plant commonly found in restored prairie habitats and public spaces, has striking “look-alike” characteristics, in its immature state, to asparagus. As future exposures by foraging citizens will be likely, awareness of this relationship and the toxic manifestations of cytisine will be useful.


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      Linked Article

      • Baptisia Poisoning: Consideration on the Botanical Variety
        Journal of Emergency MedicineVol. 51Issue 3
        • Preview
          Anderson et al. in 2015 presented two case reports of Baptisia poisoning (1). An 85-year-old woman and her daughter (48 years old) presented to the Emergency Department with gastrointestinal complaints and dizziness after they had eaten plant material that they had collected from a municipal rain garden. The ingested plant material was identified to be Baptisia australis. The authors found on the Internet numerous herbal supplements containing Baptisia as a remedy for upper respiratory infections (URI), and discussed the poisoning of Baptisia without specification or special consideration of the botanical variety (1).
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