Number 5 Suicide Tree (Cerbera odollam)
Cerbera odollam commonly known as the suicide tree, is a plant that bears some resemblance to oleander. It’s native to India and other parts of Southern Asia, where it grows in marshy areas and coastal salt swamps. The suicide tree’s flowers are white and its fruit, when still green, resembles a small mango. The fruit’s fibrous shell encases an oval kernel that’s highly toxic. It contains cardiac glycosides and a proprietary toxin, called “Cerberin”, which block calcium iron channels in the heart muscles. It basically disrupts the heartbeat, often to a fatal degree. Upon ingestion of the kernel, the most common poisoning symptom is vomiting, and death may occur within two days. Cerberin is hard to detect in an autopsy. This, much like its common name would indicate, has made it an agent of suicides and homicides in India. Between 1989 and 1999, there were over 500 cases of fatal Cerbera poisoning in the Indian state of Kerala.
Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
As the legend goes, when Macbeth was still a lieutenant and before he became King of Scotland, he was faced with invading English forces. Under the guise of a truce, he poisoned them with wine made from the sweet fruit of the deadly nightshade. Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, was said to have been poisoned by his wife with a deadly nightshade mixture. Known by its scientific name as Atropa belladonna, extracts from this plant have been in use
since at least the 4th century BC. It’s a perennial herbaceous plant that produces purple, bell-shaped flowers and berries which ripen to a shiny black and are about half an inch in diameter. It’s native to Central and Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus, and North Africa. Throughout history, belladonna has found a place in medicine and as a cosmetic but also as a poison and in ceremonial rituals.
Wolf’s Bane (Aconitum genus)
Commonly known as aconite, wolf’s bane, monkshood, or devil’s helmet. Wolf’s bane is a plant that people have known to be extremely toxic since Ancient times. In Greek mythology, it’s said to have come from the slavering mouth of Cerberus, the monstrous three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld. The plant is so toxic that indigenous people of Alaska used it for whale-hunting. A poison-tipped lance would be used in the hunt and it would paralyze the whale causing
it to drown. Wolf’s bane, especially in its roots and tubers, contains a highly potent cardiotoxin and neurotoxin called aconitine. It damages sodium channels, thus disrupting the proper communication of signals to neurons, skeletal or cardiac muscles. The first symptoms of aconitine poisoning occur 20 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. In fatal poisoning death occurs within six hours and it’s usually the result of respiratory paralysis or cardiac arrest.
Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
Ricin is famous for its renowned toxicity. It’s found in the seeds of the castor oil plant, which is listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s most poisonous common plant. While castor oil itself has uses in medicine and other applications, ricin is notoriously
deadly. It’s found in the pulp of the raw castor bean and the process of extracting it is similar to that of removing cyanide from almonds.
Despite their name, the seeds are not true beans but merely resemble them in appearance. They are contained by spiked, greenish capsules. Ingesting broken seeds or breaking them by chewing is what causes poisoning in humans. Intact seeds, when swallowed, may pass through the digestive tract without releasing ricin. Symptoms of intoxication include a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. After a few days, the victim will likely experience extreme dehydration, decreased urine production and a drop in blood pressure. Unless treated, death occurs within a week.
Tobacco (Nicotiana genus)
They’re part of the nightshade family and contain various amounts of nicotine. Some tobacco cultivations sites in Mexico date back to 1400-1000 BC and in some native cultures it was seen as a gift from the Creator. Smoking tobacco, as a ceremonial ritual, was believed to carry thoughts and prayers to the divine. Nowadays, tobacco smoking and consumption account for a global industry trending towards $1 trillion. In 2017, in the US alone, tobacco companies spent an estimated $1 million every hour towards marketing their products. The risks associated with smoking tobacco are well-established. The inhalation of carcinogens and poisonous chemicals, such as carbon monoxide is devastating to overall health.
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