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Are English Yew Seeds Poisonous? (Must-Know Information)

Are English Yew Seeds Poisonous? (Must-Know Information)

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

English yews have poisonous bark and needles that rank them as some of the most toxic plants in most peoples’ backyards. However, some people have sworn by eating the berries for many years. You might be curious about eating the berries and whether or not the seeds contain the same poisonous compounds.

English yew seeds are poisonous. You can get very sick if you eat the seeds from this tree, so it’s important to keep it away from pets and family. However, the berries are edible with the seeds removed.

Throughout this post, we’ll dive into the details about why you should avoid English yew seeds, how to handle them properly, and what happens if you accidentally eat them. We’ll also talk about whether or not the berries are safe for consumption.

Can You Eat English Yew Seeds?

You can’t eat English yew seeds because they contain multiple toxic compounds.

Even if they were edible, you wouldn’t be able to chew through the hard center. English yew seeds contain the highest concentrations of the dangerous, poisonous chemicals naturally occurring in these plants (source).

Contact your local poison control center immediately if you or anyone else (including your pets) accidentally consumes an English yew seed.

Some symptoms don’t show up right away, but they can develop into extremely severe side effects. This often happens when pets unknowingly eat the seeds while chewing on berries that fell to the ground.

English yew seeds are easy to spot and clean out of the yard, though. The berries are bright red, and the seeds are brownish red. All fallen debris from the English yew should be thrown away or composted.

The decomposition process removes the toxins, making the clippings and dirt safe to use as a natural fertilizer in your garden.

What Happens if You Ingest English Yew Seeds?

If you ingest English yew seeds, you’ll more than likely get a stomach ache, followed by a rapid heartbeat, sweats, and overall discomfort. There have been many fatalities associated with ingesting yew seeds due to their extremely high concentration of taxine. The same symptoms will be found in pets who ingest the seeds.

Here’s a list of additional symptoms that could show up if you eat English yew seeds:

  • European Heart Journal claims a man died of heart problems after eating English yew seeds (source). Taxine (the poison found in yew plants) is responsible for rapid heart fluctuations. It’s exponentially more dangerous for those with pre-existing heart conditions.
  • You’ll likely experience an upset stomach, nausea, and extreme digestive pain. Many people who ingest English yew seeds vomit or have diarrhea for many days afterward. A trip to the hospital is more than necessary since it could be a life-threatening issue.
  • Central nervous system discomfort and pain can make the process even more undesirable. The poisonous compounds in English yew berries can flare your nerves, causing irregular heartbeat and confusion. It can also lead to increases in adrenaline that cause shakiness and heavy breathing.

Keep in mind that all of these symptoms can occur simply by mishandling English yew seeds, needles, or bark. These toxic plants require gloves since the poison can leak onto your hands.

Always wash up after clipping your English yew or removing debris from the yard. You should also take caution when transplanting the clippings for propagation.

Don’t let all of these side effects and warnings steer you away from maintaining these beautiful plants. They can be wonderful hedges and trees, but they require a lot of precision and attention to detail.

Contrary to what you might think, there’s one part of this toxic plant that most people can eat without any unwanted symptoms at all.

Can You Eat English Yew Berries?

You can eat English yew berries if they’re ripe, fresh, and don’t have their seeds in them. The berries are the only part of the English yew that doesn’t have Taxine in it.

Furthermore, they contain a handful of essential vitamins that can make them a healthy part of your diet. They’ve also been consumed by local naturalists for a long time.

The English yew berry is technically not a berry but a seed cup known as an aril. The flavor of the berries has been described in a wide range, from tart and syrupy to sweet and watery.

It depends on the location, time of year, and soil used to grow the yew. If you’re worried, it’s best not to chance it.

Those who want to eat English yew berries should adhere to these suggestions:

  • Avoid putting the aril in your mouth before eating the seed. Many people eat the yew arils, then spit out the seeds. It’s not worth the risk. Just remove the seeds beforehand!
  • If it tastes bitter or sour, spit it out. You might’ve accidentally bit into some of the seed, which is incredibly dangerous.
  • While swallowing a whole seed is less dangerous than chewing and swallowing a seed, it’s still worth a trip to the doctor immediately. You might’ve saved your own life.
  • Don’t eat too many of these berries at a time. English yew arils have a host of antioxidants, but eating too many of them at once has been known to cause an upset stomach.

You can almost always eat English yew arils without any complications. However, it’s up to you if the risk of coming in contact with a yew multiple times, washing your hands, removing the toxic seeds, and chewing the tough berries is worth the risk.

Final Thoughts

Eating English yew seeds can have disastrous effects, but the berries are generally okay to eat. That being said, it’s better to stay on the safe side if you’re worried about potential health concerns.

Make sure your pets don’t have access to the berries, especially when they drop to the ground and cover the surrounding soil.

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