Oleander and Oleandrin: Not a Safe Plant or Supplement

Julie Weber Hub

Oleander is a large tropical bush or small tree with purple, pink, or white flowers. It may be used as an ornamental patio plant in Missouri gardens but grows naturally along highways in the Southern United States and in Hawaii. Although oleander is decorative and pretty, all parts of the plant, including the flowers, leaves, nectar and sap contain a dangerous poison. Even smoke from a burning oleander plant or the water from a vase of cut flowers may produce a poisoning. Adults have been ill from drinking tea steeped from leaves or roots or by intentionally eating the plant material.

The chemical found in the oleander plant is related to cardiac glycosides which are similar to the prescription medication Digoxin/Lanoxin® used to treat congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation.

QUICK FACTS

  • All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous.
  • The main effect of this poison is to the heart.
  • Current studies on oleandrin and COVID-19, do not support safe use in humans.

Effects of an oleander poisoning include:

  • Irregular heartbeat and other serious heart problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort
  • Confusion and/or drowsiness
  • Visual disturbances, dizziness, unsteadiness

You may have heard some recent reports that oleandrin, which is a part of the oleander plant (Nerium oleander), could potentially be useful to fight COVID-19. However, most medical experts universally agree that all parts of the plant are dangerous and the use of oleandrin is not safe according to current research. Experts warn that a single study was done in vitro (meaning in a laboratory setting) and the results of the study do not support safety or efficacy for use in humans. In fact, using oleandrin can lead to dangerous poisonings.

According to the Joint Statement on Dangers of Oleandrin by the American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT), the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT), and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPPCC): “This is true of many other chemicals, as well. This does not mean oleandrin is safe or effective for the treatment or prevention of coronavirus in humans. It is often the case that drugs that appear effective in “test tube” or animal models are found to be ineffective or harmful in humans.” Read more here: Oleander Position Statement

For any questions or concerns about the plant oleander or supplements containing oleandrin, call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. Specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365 to answer your questions. The service is free and confidential.

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