Poisonous in all parts of the plant, according to the description of the oleander (botanical: Nerium oleander). But what exactly are the effects? In what amount can it even be fatal? To what extent are children at risk? Do pets gnaw on the plant? What to do in the event of symptoms of poisoning? Education, careful handling or, if necessary, doing without, these are alternatives that everyone must weigh up for themselves before buying an oleander (also: rose laurel). More detailed information on toxicity, effects and protection can make the decision easier.


The substance that makes the oleander so poisonous is called oleandrin. This is what is known as a cardiac glycoside. Cardiac glycosides are active substances that influence heart strength and heart rate. The best-known of these glycosides is probably digitalis, an active ingredient from the foxglove (digitalis). About 200 different glycosides are known, most of which are contained in plants, some also in snakes and frogs.

The oleandrin is in the Nerium oleander in all parts of the plant. The highest concentration is contained in the leaves. The wild species of oleander contain more of it than the cultivated varieties that are commercially available today. The oleandrin content in dried leaves is only half as high as in the fresh leaves on the bush.

Serious effects on the human adult heart can be expected at a dose of 15 to 20 grams of fresh leaves. However, the leaves taste extremely bitter, so this amount is rarely consumed voluntarily.

effect, symptoms

The smaller the organism, the more severe the effects, more precisely, the symptoms of poisoning. The symptoms also vary depending on individual predispositions and previous stresses. Symptoms of poisoning can occur both when eating and when coming into contact with the clear juice of the Nerium oleander.


After eating one leaf or more, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • gastrointestinal complaints (affecting the digestive tract)
  • excessive salivation
  • nausea, nausea
  • diarrhea
  • functional heart problems
  • cardiac arrhythmias
  • palpitations
  • low pulse
  • pupil dilation
  • blue lips
  • cold extremities
  • muscle tremors
  • Collapse, Coma
  • cardiac, respiratory paralysis

The effects of oleandrin are comparable to those of digitalis. At an appropriate dose, consumption leads to cardiac arrest within two to three hours. However, the leaves of the rose laurel taste very bitter, so that people rarely consume toxic amounts. The escaping plant sap during gardening can be more dangerous for the gardener.

Note: As a warning, it should be mentioned that poisoning occurs again and again in the USA because oleander wood was used for smoking or for a barbecue.


The clear plant sap, which escapes in abundance when cutting or removing leaves and flowers, causes severe irritation on the skin:

  • allergic reaction (dermatitis)
  • itching
  • redness
  • can get into the blood through wounds in the skin (danger of poisoning)
  • After eye contact: Danger severe conjunctivitis and corneal inflammation
  • Pollen contains strong pollen allergens

In order not to provoke skin irritation when working on the rose laurel, it is best to protect it as follows:

  • Clothing with long sleeves
  • long trousers
  • gloves
  • safety goggles (splash protection)
  • Respiratory protection (pollen allergens)
Note: Do not just throw the prunings on the compost. They can be scattered in all directions in the wind. Your own children and those of the neighbors as well as pets running around are not unnecessarily endangered.


In children, a much smaller dose than one leaf is enough to cause signs of illness. That is why you should avoid an oleander, at least as long as there is a child in the house who still puts everything in his mouth. Fallen leaves or plant parts lying around that are picked up by children and put in their mouths are sufficient for poisoning.

In this regard, if you have children, you should also keep an eye out for a Nerium oleander in the neighborhood. In any case, immediately remove any leaves that are blowing over and as soon as the child understands, explain the danger to him. The same applies to walks in southern countries, as well as in domestic parks.


If there is a suspicion of poisoning, there is no time to waste and either take the affected person to a hospital immediately or call the emergency doctor. Until arrival:

  • give plenty of liquid, in small sips (water, juice, tea)
  • no milk!
  • do not induce vomiting! (Danger of suffocation, unless the emergency doctor on the phone advises it due to time constraints)

An infusion is then administered in the hospital and the poison is excreted. If this happens early enough, there will be a full recovery.


The oleander is poisonous in all plant parts also for all vertebrates. Here it can be said that the smaller the animal, the less plant material is sufficient for a lethal effect. While the critical dose for horses and cattle is 15-20 grams, similar to that for humans, one gram is enough for dogs and cats.
It can be dangerous if the cat sharpens its claws on the oleander trunk and then licks it. For young dogs, branches and plant parts of the oleander that have fallen on the walk can be dangerous.

First signs of poisoning in animals:

  • dilated pupils
  • sudden drop in body temperature
  • vomiting, convulsions

If you experience these symptoms, do not waste time and go to the vet, immediate help is required!


With the Nerium oleander, there is far more to consider before purchasing than the right location and where it can best overwinter. If there are children in the house, you should generally refrain from deciding on such a poisonous plant as the oleander. It’s enough for worried parents to have to keep an eye on the plants in the neighborhood.


Nature lovers, owners of near-natural gardens who flirt with a rose laurel should also be suspicious that even bees despise the lush blooms of the oleander.

Maybe it’s better to look around at the local plants for a new, colorful summer bloomer anyway. The selection is huge, a purchase is usually cheaper and the care is usually not as demanding as with the exotic beauties. Here are some blooming examples:

  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea)
  • Butterflies (Buddleja)
  • Spiersträucher (Spiraea)
  • Common snowball ( Viburnum opulus )
  • Zweigriffeliger Weißdorn (Crataegus laevigata)
  • Perlmuttstrauch ( Kolkwitzia amabilis )
  • shrub roses

Beautiful and dangerous! Anyone who brings an oleander onto the balcony or terrace should be aware of the dangers for people and animals. Careful handling when choosing the location and with the waste of the oleander during cutting work is important, so that children and pets in particular are not harmed.

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