Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Do you have snake plants in your home? Some people love to call them Sansevierias others call them the Bird’s Nest Snake plant, the Mother-in-law’s tongue, the Good-Luck plant, African Spear Plant, or the Bowstring Hemp.
Snake plants have low or almost insignificant toxic levels for humans. But if ingested in large doses, it will be poisonous and can cause vomiting and nausea, and it can cause numbness effect to your tongue and throat and make it swell.
Being native to Africa and Southern Asia’s tropical and sub-tropical areas, snake plants are adored for their hardy nature. They tolerate even the most unfavorable conditions like low light and are generally low-maintenance plants. For forgetful gardeners, this is indeed your houseplant of choice!
However, there is a slight problem with snake plants, the issue of toxicity. Are snake plants toxic to people? The question we aim to answer comprehensively in this write-up.
Let’s learn more about this.
Why Are Snake Plants Potentially Toxic to People?
A particular chemical called Saponin is behind the toxicity of snake plants. They produce this chemical as a natural fungicide and insecticide, which is beneficial for them; it has been proven toxic to living things. By living things, we mean humans and pets alike. The potential risk of toxicity happens when:
- One eats the plant: We can’t tell why someone would want to eat a snake plant. Is it out of sheer curiosity or belief that it can cure a disease? But one thing we are certain of is that ingesting a snake plant is potentially toxic for you. Their bitter taste is yet another discomfort. However, we can’t rule out that children may just want to explore and eat the plant. Ingesting a snake plant is exactly where the danger lies.
- One comes in contact with the plant’s juices or sap: Although snake plants are fairly safe to touch, the liquid from their leaves can be harmful. Their sap has been proven to potentially result in a skin condition called dermatitis that appears in the form of a skin rash or irritated skin.
It is important to note that every part of the snake plant is potentially toxic to humans, and this is because the Saponin toxins are present all over the plant.
From the stiff, upright, and beautiful leaves to the long stem, the scented flowers, and the occasional berries, literally all parts have Saponin. You, therefore, need to find ways to protect yourself, your pets, and your children from ingesting any part of the plant.
What Happens When People Consume Snake Plants?
We will forgive you if you have attempted to eat a snake plant! And we are glad you are reading this right now because you will understand what can happen when you or your child eats a snake plant.
Consuming a snake plant can result in mild to moderate poisoning.
We mentioned earlier that snake plants have a bitter taste, and this is because of the chemical called Saponin. So, the minute you try to put a snake plant in your mouth, you’ll experience a bitter, unpleasant taste followed by a burning sensation. This plant is simply unpalatable; people and animals try to avoid it.
In case you or your child decides to ignore the taste and continue sampling the plant, here are common symptoms you can expect to manifest:
- Visible swelling will occur on your lips, tongue, whole mouth, and esophagus.
- Feelings of nausea will arise, and this can also result in vomiting.
- And because snake plants are not fit for human consumption, diarrhea is another symptom to expect.
- When the plant hits the stomach, abdominal pains begin.
- Loss of appetite is yet another symptom.
Another possible risk we can’t neglect to mention again is the potential risk when your skin comes in contact with the sap from the leaves of a snake plant. Unlike pets that have furry protective skin, humans have exposed skin. If you allow the juice of a snake plant to touch your skin, you may experience symptoms of dermatitis that could leave you with rashes and uncomfortable skin irritation.
Also, the tip of the leaves of a snake plant is pointed, which can potentially prick you when you touch it. Luckily, this is something you can easily avoid.
Also, read What houseplants are toxic to dogs?
What To Do When Someone Consumes a Snake Plant
When some contact a toxic substance, immediate action is always recommended to salvage the situation. In the case of poisoning that results from ingesting a snake plant, you can decide to treat yourself at home after consulting with a medical specialist on what to do.
In a worst-case scenario, when a large plant is consumed, you should see a doctor for proper medical attention.
Treatment for ingesting a snake plant may include:
- Removing the poisonous plant remains from the mouth. This can be done using water to flush out the toxins.
- Getting rid of the toxins in the stomach by inducing vomiting or, in a serious case, pumping the stomach to empty what is in it.
- A physician may recommend antihistamines for the swelling in the mouth and gut.
- Vomiting and diarrhea may result in dehydration. It is therefore important to increase one’s hydration levels.
To be safe, do not rely on the methods you know or have googled to treat yourself. We advise that you only act according to what you have learned from a specialist or go to the hospital.
In the case of skin dermatitis caused by coming into contact with sap from the leaves of a snake plant, here are some effective remedies:
- First, you need to avoid scratching and rubbing the affected area.
- Then you can use an anti-inflammatory or anti-itch skin product as treatment.
- You can also apply a cool, wet cloth for relief.
- You also want to protect the affected area from exposure to direct sunlight.
- Lastly, a warm bath will be comforting.
How to Stay Safe from the Toxic Effects of a Snake Plant
To protect yourself from the underlying risks posed by snake plants, not just for your pets but also for you and your children, you need to do the following:
- First, be careful when handling the plant. You should wear gloves to repot it or prune its leaves. And because you live with this plant in your home, chances are high that you can accidentally let the juice on its leaves touch your skin as you move around. Avoid this at all costs.
- Protecting yourself as an adult is easy. But you must find a way to keep snake plants away from reach for your children and pets. You can safely place them on a high shelf or in areas beyond their access. Alternatively, you can have them fenced away in a fence good enough for your children not to jump through.
- Another important thing you need to do is educate your children and other family members that snake plants have toxins and are potentially harmful. After reading this article, we are certain you are knowledgeable enough to offer all the guidance and answer their questions, right? Yes, go ahead and educate others, including your neighbors and relatives.
Why You Still Need to Have a Snake Plant at Home
Do not let the underlying risks of snake plants keep you from owning one. Let’s emphasize that the toxic levels of these plants are mild in humans.
What’s more, there are still some ways to protect yourself from this toxicity. That said, here are some excellent reasons why you still need to get a snake plant:
- It is an amazing oxygen producer: A Clean Air Study by Nasa reveals that certain plants produce more oxygen than others. Yes, all plants produce oxygen, but snake plants are among the best. They even produce oxygen at night! This fact makes snake plants an ideal plant for your bedroom. Good oxygen levels are closely linked with good sleep.
- It helps filter out toxins from the air: Indoor air quality can sometimes be compromised, especially in densely populated urban areas. You need snake plants because they work hard to remove harmful toxins such as xylene and benzene inside your home. With their ability to remove harmful toxins, they are an effective protection against airborne allergens.
- It is easy to care for. With our busy schedules, we often prefer houseplants that need less attention. Snake plants are that kind of plant. Even if you forget to water it sometimes or keep it in a dimly lit room, a snake plant is difficult to kill. This is why they are the plant of choice for your home and office spaces.
- It’s visually appealing: Besides being useful, snake plants are also a statement of beauty. You, therefore, need to have one for decoration purposes. A snake plant will effortlessly transform any space. Its tall artificial-looking foliage in shades of green or yellow with horizontal stripes makes it uniquely beautiful.
Also read, What house plants are toxic to cats? Avoid these.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the snake plant safe inside the house?
The snake plant is a classic yet versatile houseplant with a sword-like foliage design. It is excellent for the forgetful gardener and is considered a top air purification plant for the indoor environment. The Sansevieria is an ideal plant for indoor spaces because it is a superb air purifier.
What is unique about snake plants?
Similar to other household succulents, snake plants help to filter indoor air. What’s unique about this particular plant is that it’s one of the few plants that can convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen at night. This quality makes it an ideal plant for bedroom decor, as it can help regulate healthy airflow.
What do I need to know about snake plants?
Snake plants absorb toxins and release oxygen, which may release moisture in the air and lessen airborne allergens. The Sansevieria meets these conditions perfectly. Therefore, persons with allergies should find a friend in such plants because they are a natural and cheap way to stay healthy.
Do snake plants attract snakes?
No, Snake plants do not attract snakes, and it’s just a myth about this plant with no meaning. Many people believe in this myth because of the shape of the leaves. The Snake plant leaves look pretty similar to snakes, though you will always find these leaves in green or yellow color.
Do Snake plants attract mosquitoes?
One of the biggest problems many people have with growing plants is that they tend to bear insects and mosquitoes. But if you grow a snake plant, you will have no problem. The snake plant has a chemical called Saponin, which repels mosquitoes.
Living in harmony with your snake plants is still possible regardless of being potentially toxic to humans. They are more toxic to cats, dogs, and rabbits. Moreover, a significant risk arises when you eat them or come into contact with the sap. Fortunately, these two significant risks are easily avoidable.
Snake plants are a must-have houseplant when one can avoid the potential risks. And if one accidentally ingests them or gets in contact with the sap, find solace in the fact that this situation has effective solutions and won’t kill you.