Selected Topics: Toxicology| Volume 59, ISSUE 6, e209-e212, December 2020

Fatal Yellow Oleander Poisoning Masquerading as Benign Candlenut Ingestion Taken for Weight Loss

Published:September 08, 2020DOI:



      Candlenuts (Aleurites moluccana) and yellow oleander seeds (Thevetia peruviana) bear a physical resemblance to one another. Candlenuts are benign and marketed as weight loss supplements. Yellow oleander seeds, however, contain toxic cardioactive steroids; as few as 2 seeds may cause fatal poisoning. Because of their physical similarities, the potential for a lethal substitution exists.

      Case Report

      A 63-year-old woman presented to the emergency department with vomiting after ingesting 5 of what she believed to be candlenuts that were ordered online under the colloquial name “Nuez de la India” for the purpose of weight loss. She was bradycardic (nadir pulse of 30 beats/min) and hyperkalemic (serum potassium 7.3 mEq/L). Within hours of presentation she suffered a ventricular fibrillation arrest, followed by a terminal asystolic arrest. Postmortem analyses of liver tissue and the seeds were consistent with fatal T. peruviana poisoning.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?

      T. peruviana seeds contain toxic cardioactive steroids; their physical resemblance to candlenuts poses a risk of potentially fatal substitution. Therapy with high-dose digoxin specific immune fragments (20–30 vials) may be helpful.


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