American Yew

The following is given for your information only and is not intended to use in treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you think you have ingested or been exposed to yew or any other poison, please call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222.

Part of the Yew plant family, the American Yew (Taxus Canadensis) is mostly found in in the Central and Eastern Canada as well as Central and Eastern United States, please consult the map for more details.

yew_map1

It can also be found in some back yards for its decorative value, as its bright red berries contrast very nicely with the green of its leaves.

It has been described as a shrub that can grow as tall as a man, but some species can grow to more than 40 feet in height. Their flowers are cream colored and turn into green or bright red fruits in time.

American Yew

American Yew

It is useful for bows, as the plant grows straight and tall, and the wood itself proves very resilient when placed under tensile stress.

The berries are supposedly edible when ripe, but I wouldn’t take any chances. The bark, sap, leaves and seeds are deadly. The sap itself can be used to treat the tips of your arrows to make them poisonous.

The poisonous ingredient in the yew plant is Taxol and Taxine, and it is at its highest concentration in the seeds.

Symptoms of Yew poisoning (in no particular order):

  • blue-colored lips
  • difficulty breathing
  • coma
  • convulsions
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • enlarged pupils
  • headache
  • irregular heartbeat
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea
  • rapid collapse
  • slow heartbeat
  • stomach pain
  • trembling
  • vomiting

Treatment:

Call 911 or Poison Control Center without delay, also, try to obtain the following information:

  • Person’s gender, age, weight
  • If female, try to determine if pregnant
  • Try to obtain the plant that was touched or swallowed
  • Try to determine the amount swallowed

Do not attempt to induce vomiting unless instructed to by a professional.

The poison control center call is free and confidential, and it doesn’t have to be an emergency. You should call them if you have any questions at all about poison prevention or poisoning in general. Those people are glad to educate you and will appreciate the opportunity you give them to do just that. They will give you instructions to follow in your specific situation.

The victim will likely be taken to an emergency room. The victim should expect an IV, stomach flush, activated charcoal to absorb the poison and possibly a temporary pacemaker and breathing support.

The prognosis depends on how much poison was swallowed and how quickly the person was taken for treatment.

Normally, we try to provide some instructions as to how to deal with this type of thing on your own, in the field or in a survival situation. Currently, we are not aware of any field treatment for Yew poisoning.

IF YOU HAVE INGESTED ANY PART OF THE YEW PLANT, THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO ACCEPT IS PEOPLE SAYING “DON’T WORRY, YOU’LL BE FINE”. CALL 911 AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING APPROPRIATE HELP.