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The Bleeding Heart, a popular ornamental plant for its showy flowers, belongs to the poppy family (Papaveraceae) and, like many of its relatives, is poisonous. Small children and pets are particularly at risk, as they want to nibble on the pretty plant out of sheer curiosity. However, fatal poisoning is generally not to be expected.

The Bleeding Heart is beautiful to look at, but unfortunately poisonous

All parts of the plant are poisonous

Basically, all parts of the Bleeding Heart are poisonous, with the highly poisonous ones mainly found underground. The roots in particular contain various alkaloids, of which the isoquinoline alkaloid protopine in particular is effective as a toxin. The same substance is also found in other poppy plants, some of which are highly toxic, such as celandine (Chelidonium majus), the Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica) or the white feather poppy (Macleaya cordata). In medicine, the bleeding heart is not traditionally used.

signs of intoxication

Depending on which parts of the plant were eaten and in what quantities, minor symptoms of poisoning such as a burning sensation in the mouth and stomach and intestinal problems are to be expected. The latter can also be accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of paralysis are possible with stronger poisoning. Fatal poisoning due to circulatory failure cannot be ruled out either.

What to do in case of poisoning?

If you or your child have accidentally eaten or swallowed parts of the Bleeding Heart (or any other poisonous plant), here are the best things to do:

  • Be sure to keep calm.
  • Remove any plant debris from the mouth.
  • Do not induce vomiting!
  • It is better to drink still water or tea instead of milk.
  • Call poison control or go to the nearest hospital.


You should also wear gloves when gardening with a bleeding heart (e.g. cutting), especially if you have sensitive skin and are prone to contact eczema anyway.

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