Nerium oleanda

Botanical Name

Nerium oleander Linn. [2]

Synonyms

No documentation

Family

Apocyanaceae

Vernacular Names

English

Oleander, Rose-bay                                         

Arabic

Defla

French Laurier rose    [2]

Description

Nerium oleander is a member of the Apocynaceae family. It is a perennial shrub which can grow up to 4 m tall. It has erect stem with profuse branching. The leaves forms whorls of three, each measuring 10 cm long, evergreen, leathery, simple, entire, lanceolate lengthwise, pointed with median veins which is prominent underneath and a number of secondary veins. The flowers are strongly aromatic which grows in terminal corymbs. The calyx is shorter than the corolla. There are 5 multifid scales opposing the lobes. The stamens are enclosed and inserted in the middle of the corolla. The fruits are cylindrical and composed of two fused, linear follicles. There are many seeds in each fruit, each with a red-haired pappus. [2]

Distribution

The Mediterranean, South-west Asia and North Africa. [1], [2], [3]

Plant Use

In North Africa this plant had been used in the treatment of many conditions including gangrene, eczrma, headache and colds, toothache, scabies, lices and alopecia and non-bleeding skin lesions. [2]

Toxic Parts

Whole plant especially the leaves and flowers. [1], [3]

Toxin

The plant contains several cardiac glycosides which are the toxic principles present. These cardiac glycoside include neriin (nerioside), oleandrin (oleandroside), folinerin, rosagenin, conevin, pseudocuranine, rutin and cortenerin. The total glycoside of each plant makes up as much as 0.5% of the weight of the plant at cvarious seasons of the year. The red-flowered from seem to have more glycosides than the white variety.

All parts of the plant contain the toxic glycosides. Even smoke from burning wood and honey extracted from flowers are poisonous. There have been reports of poisoning even by drinking water from wells where the leaves and flowers had fallen into. A baby was reportedly died following consumption of milk from a cow that had consumed oleander leaves. [2], [3]

Risk Management

Should not be planted in the house or any public areas.

Clinical Findings

The cardiac glycosides produces symptoms almost similar to digitalis poisoning. These include bradycardia, dysarrhythmias, abdominal cramps with vomiting and diarrhoea, dizziness, persistent headache, fatigue, drowsiness and dilated pupils, loss of visual acuity with blurred or aberrant colour vision. In more severe cases, convulsions, respiratory failure, coma and death is a possibility. A red flush around the mouth has been reported in cases of intoxication and fatalities. [1], [3]

Local symptoms include rashes in sensitive people. [3]

Management

  1. Gastric lavage to remove as much of the plant material as possible immediately. This is followed by providing a slurry of activated charcoal.
  2. Rapid acting cathartic should be given in order to remove any plant materials that had escaped into the small intestines.
  3. Monitoring of serum potassium and cardiac function by electrocardiogram in all cases as a way of monitoring the effects of nerin and oleandrin in circulation.
  4. Treatment similar to that of Digitalis poisoning. The old method of using Atropine and Propranolol is still equally effective where digoxin-specific Fab antibody fragments are not available. [3]

References

  1. Forero L., Nader G., Livestock-Poisoning Plants of California University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources pg. 12
  2. IUCN A guide to Medicinal Plants of North Africa IUCN, 2005 pg. 16
  3. Nellis DW., Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean Pineapple Press Sarasota 1997 pg. 140 - 142.