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Are Snake Plants (Sansevieria) Toxic to People?

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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.

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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, and this chemical 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 exactly tell the reason why someone would actually want to eat a snake plant. Is it out of sheer curiosity or maybe the 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 the fact that children may just want to explore and therefore go ahead to 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 that comes from their leaves can be harmful. Their sap has been proven to potentially result in a skin condition called dermatitis that appears in 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 berries that occasionally appear, 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.

Also, read Monstera toxicity to you and your pets; how safe is it?

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 in your mouth. 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, your whole mouth and on the gut/ esophagus area.
  • 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.
  • For the swelling in the mouth and gut, a physician may recommend antihistamines.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea may result in dehydration. It therefore important to increase one’s hydration levels.

To be on the safe side, 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. If you need to repot it or prune its leaves, it is advisable that your wear gloves. And because you basically 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 for your children and pets, you need to find a way to keep snake plants away from reach. You can safely place them in 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 therefore potentially harmful. After reading this article we are certain you are knowledgeable enough to offer all the guidance and answer all the questions they might have, 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 posed by snake plants keep you from owning one. Let’s emphasize that the toxic levels Let’sake plants are mild on humans.

What’s more, there are still some effeWhat’sways 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 considered to be among the best oxygen-producing plants. They even produce oxygen at night! This fact makes snake plants an ideal plant for your bedroom. Good oxygen levels are actually 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. This is why 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 not just for your home but also office spaces.
  • It’s visually appealing: Other than 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 the shades of green or yellow with horizontal stripes make it uniquely beautiful.

Also read, What house plants are toxic to cats, avoid these.

FAQ’s about Snake Plants


It is still possible to live in harmony with your snake plants regardless of being potentially toxic to humans. They are more toxic to cats, dogs, and rabbits. What’s more, the 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 in case 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. With that said, you can subscribe for more informative gardening posts by completing the form below.