Alkaloid Poisoning: Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:00 Alkaloids & Alkaloid Poisoning
  • 1:18 Alkaloid Poisoning:…
  • 2:33 How to Treat Alkaloid…
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Were you aware that consuming too many green vegetables could lead to alkaloid poisoning? In this lesson, learn about this type of illness, recognize its symptoms and understand the different treatment options available.

Alkaloids and Alkaloid Poisoning

I'm sure you've heard it before, that we should have nine servings, roughly two cups, of green vegetables per day. But did you know that eating a very large amount of one type of green, over time, could lead to an illness? Strange, but true! Alkaloid poisoning is an illness associated with excess consumption of any specific type of green vegetable over an extended period of time.

An alkaloid is a type of naturally occurring compound that has a least one nitrogen atom present in its structure. These substances are commonly found in plants and animals. Here are a few examples of different alkaloids:

Examples of Different Plant Alkaloid Structures

The alkaloid type may be different from plant to plant. For example, spinach contains the alkaloid oxalic acid, while the poppy plant species contains different alkaloids. Regarding animals, our friend the beaver has been shown to have alkaloids in its body.

But getting back to plants, alkaloids are commonly found in specific areas of the plant: leaves, seeds, roots, and fruit. As you can see, the alkaloid theophylline is found in tea leaves while the root of the Japanese plant species aconitum contains alkaloids such as aconitine. Although the function of alkaloids in plants is not fully understood, it is believed that alkaloids may play a biological role in plant life.

The Relationship Between Alkaloid Location in Different Parts of a Plant

Alkaloid Poisoning: Causes and Symptoms

You reach for a few bushels of kale and decide to make a raw kale smoothie. After drinking several glasses of raw kale juice over a period of three months, you start to feel a numb sensation in your fingers as well as increased fatigue. Even worse, you no longer can tolerate the taste, smell, or let alone sight of anything kale-related! This is a classic example of how a person can be exposed to alkaloid poisoning.

You may have gathered from our example that it took a lot of kale smoothies to cause alkaloid poisoning. The cause of plant-based alkaloid poisoning is quite easy to remember: It is the excess eating of leafy greens. The term, 'excess' may vary from one person to another, as there are many factors to consider, such as body size, height, age, etc. However, the basic principle remains. If you consume large amounts of one type of plant product for an extended period of time, you're at risk of getting alkaloid poisoning.

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