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|Pacific Yew Bulletin > Taxus Toxicity|
In the ancient Rome documentation, the European Yew (Taxus) was used as a poison drug due to its toxicity, therefore Taxus trees have a highly poisonous reputation. To our knowledge, there are no documented poisonings of human or animals with Pacific Yew.
The cardiotoxic alkaloidal fraction "taxine" is relatively abundant in European Yew, and even more so in Japanese Yew. Taxine causes death from asphyxia due to cardiac and respiratory failure. Most ornamental yews are the European and Japanese species or their cultivars and may not be suitable as botanicals or medicines purposes. Landscape contractors in the United States are restricted from using the English and Japanese Yew in public places where children might pick and eat the berries.
The taxine fraction is almost absent in Pacific Yew. Based upon V.E. Tyler's research, Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Scientific Edition, Vol. 49, No. 10, Pages 683-684 discussed the issue of taxine yield from fresh needles of Pacific Yew. It showed 0.00077% of fresh weight, and cyanogenetic glycosides were found to be absent in the alkaloid-poor species.
The subject of Pacific Yew safety was carefully studied by US National Institute of Health (NIH) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for its safety during the period of developing Taxol (an ingredient from the bark of Yew tree). The toxicity of Pacific Yew tips was tested in rat and it showed the consumption of 5000 mg/kg of body weight. Again, to our knowledge, there are no documented poisonings of human or animals with Pacific Yew tips.
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