Moonflower Seed Poisoning

September 13, 2010, 4:13 pm


“I Shouldn’t Have Had Dessert. . .” A Moonflower Seed Ingestion. Stellpflug SJ et al. West J Emerg Med 2010 May;11:213.

Full Text

Moonflower (Datura inoxia) is a plant with large white decorative flowers that bloom a dusk (hence the name).  It is a member of the same genus as jimson weed (Datura stramonium). All parts of the plant contain the anticholinergic alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine.

This brief case report, from the Hennepin Regional Poison Center, describes a 60-year-old man who topped off a meal with ice cream on which — to make the dish more healthy — he had sprinkled what he took to be flax seeds.  Unfortunately for him, they turned out to be seeds from D. inoxia. Within a hour, his wife and a neighbor discovered him in an upstairs closet, naked and holding a belt.  O arrival at hospital he exhibited the full anticholinergic syndrome: red as a beet, dry as a bone, hot as a hare, and mad as a hatter.  He also incoherent and had absent bowel sounds. He required intubation, but recovered quickly and was discharged from hospital after 18 hours.

This case would have been more satisfying if the authors had explained how the ingested seeds were identified as coming from D. inoxia.

A report in MMWR several years ago described a cluster of anticholingergic toxicity in 14 adolescents from the Akron/Cleveland (OH) area who became ill after eating seeds or drinking tea brewed from seeds of D. inoxia.


  1. Neuroskeptic Says:

    Also, who has Moonflower seeds just lying around their kitchen?

  2. precordialthump Says:

    What was the indication for intubation? Did they try using physostigmine?

  3. Leon Says:


    The paper is very brief, but note that the patient was intubated for airway protection. There is no mention of treatment with — or consideration of — physostigmine.