Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

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Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Girl™ » Thu Apr 03, 2008 3:57 pm UTC

Let me know if this isn't an appropriate question...

As a kid, I read in a couple of field guides that wisteria blossoms were safe to eat, and I used to eat a few at a time with no ill effects. So I got it in my head that I'd like to make a cordial or liqueur out of them this year. Googling, though, gave me a lot of "poisonous flower" lists that included Wisteria, with no other explanation. Several links said that the flowers are safe and edible, but the rest of the plant is poison (which is what I already assumed was true). Wikipedia can't make up its mind, and says it depends on the species.

Based on the scent of the flowers and appearance of the seed pods, I'm certian that I'm dealing with either Chinese or Japanese wisteria. It'll take approximately 1/4 to 1/2 pound (very generous estimate) of blossoms--with all green parts removed--to make a proper liqueur. They will be macerated in 750 ml of 80-proof vodka for about three weeks, then a cup or so of sugar will be added. The toxin present in the wisteria plant is in the glycoside family.

If I make and drink this, will it kill me? Or more accurately, if I feed it to my roommate, will it kill him? :lol:

Disclaimer: I'm not actually going to fuck around with making something that might be poison. I'll be sticking with flowers I'm absolutely certain are edible. I'm really curious to get a reliable answer, though.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby The Ethos » Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:36 pm UTC

In toxicology they told us that one or two seeds would result in severe poisoning in a 20 y.o. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

So overall, I'd say no. The glycoside is found in all parts of the plant apparently. If I find evidence for this I'll edit.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Girl™ » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:14 pm UTC

My understanding was that the toxin was most concentrated in the bark and seeds, and nonexistent in the flower petals. But obviously, I could be wrong. I'm most interested, though, in the reaction between the glycosides and the ethanol, if there is any.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Velifer » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:23 pm UTC

Well, as far as the folk hearsay side of things goes, you certainly can make wine from wisteria flowers (but only flowers). I've eaten them in flower salads without ill effect (but just a sprinkling of them, not a tincture of several lbs.)

Keep in mind my family also ate poke salit, so...
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Kasperl » Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:22 pm UTC

Making wine is a wholly different process from making an alcohol extract. Making wine requires fermentation, breaking up a lot more chemicals. I'm currently waay to tired to give advice on this kind of thing, but if you're not sure, don't try. It could be poison is soluble in ethanol easier than the stuff that gives the taste. In that case, you're poison concentrations might greatly increase. I'm not sure of reactions, either.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Velifer » Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:17 pm UTC

Kasperl wrote:but if you're not sure, don't try.

Hey! This is a SCIENCE forum! If you have an idea, test through experimentation!

The measure of risk of just drinking some is unknown, so I don't think anyone could make an informed decision to be a human subject. Still, there are ways to detect specific glycosides that could be modified to test the resultant liqueur. I say contribute to advances in this very important academic area.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Belial » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:14 pm UTC

Better idea.

How much alchohol is a safe amount to give a feeder mouse? Specifically, if I want to make sure it's croaking from the wisteria, and not alchohol poisoning....

(disclaimer: Belial is probably not actually thinking of cruel and unusual poison experiments on animals he buys from a pet store. But it would be an effective test.)
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby wst » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:20 pm UTC

Does the BAC level/programming ability correlate to mice? It might be cheaper to just give one mouse enough to raise its BAC to write a simulation to come up with a figure for you, Belial.

Then give the mouse enough to raise its BAC to that level (after unplugging the computer from the wall and the internet. Make sure that there are no butterflies in the room either.)

Thusly you solve 2 problems:
1) BAC/Mouse programming ability.
2) Alcohol poisoning in mice.

If 1 is a 'no', bye-bye mousy. And you need a new batch of mice to do the expensive variant of the test.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby The Ethos » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:30 pm UTC

So....having looked through Micromedex, I've kind of come up with that once upon a time, there was a citation from the AMA not to eat Wisteria....(1950s) The only evidence based stuff I can find is that Wisteria contains that a glycoside that essentially.....
...
...
...irritates your stomach lining Ipecac style. It's an emetic essentially, so you'll get GI irritation and throw up a whole bunch. It also apparently has effects on your nausea center to induce vomiting as well. So.....unless you clean this out, no one is going to want to drink jack of this, no matter how good it smells.

For what it's worth, Natural Standard doesn't have a listing for it, and that's the generally accepted database of 'dietary supplemants'. If even the crazy herbalists don't package it, that says something. They eat everything else for christ's sake.

Pubmed: A 50 year-old female ingested 10 seeds from the pods of the Wisteria plant due to curiosity and the perception that they were edible beans. Subsequent toxic effects included headache, gastroenteritis, hematemesis, dizziness, confusion, diaphoresis, and a syncopal episode. She continued to feel tired and complained of being dizzy 5 to 7 days after the ingestion. Despite the abundant references in the literature supporting the toxicity of this plant and the cases cited by Lampe and McCann (1), a literature search identified only one additional case report involving two youths in Italy who ingested at least 5-6 seeds each (2). The three events were sufficiently similar in the onset of the gastrointestinal symptoms and the effects on the central nervous system as to characterize a Wisteria syndrome.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Belial » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:36 pm UTC

Which definitely proves that the seeds are a bad plan, but doesn't really say anything about the flower petals.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Velifer » Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:29 pm UTC

The Ethos wrote:So...{stuff stuff stuff}
Belial wrote:Which definitely proves lends some anecdotal evidence that the seeds are a bad plan for some people in some quantity under certain circumstances, but doesn't really say anything about the flower petals.

Come on, that's a sample size of one. Let's whip up a few hundred gallons of this wisteria goodness and serve it up to a stratified random sample with different doses. We can even make it double-blind (though that may be a result at higher dosing!)
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Belial » Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:12 pm UTC

Fair.

A few hundred gallons of vodka is spendy, though, especially when we don't even get the prospect of something tasty out of it. The seeds aren't the tasty bit, after all.
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:36 pm UTC

Sooo, glycosides are chock full of alcohol constituent, so I imagine they will dissolve quite readily into your booze. The question remains as to whether or not the flowers themselves are poisonous though, and as for that, I have no idea.

You COULD do some lowtech liquid chromatography and try and find the Rf value for the toxin in question. By comparing bark/seed/flower samples you could get a comparison. If 5g of bark is LD for a 100kg human, and the flower has 1/4th the amount of glycoside... It's a ballpark...

Honestly though, there's got to be a better way to do an infusion of the stuff's flavor that doesn't involve incorporating potential poison...
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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby The Reaper » Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:28 pm UTC

quick and easy solution to find out toxicity of blossoms. force-feed a serving or 2 to a stray cat and watch it for a week. if it doesn't die, you're good, and noone can claim animal cruelty as long as you take care of it for its stay. if it dies, you can say you were getting rid of strays, which alot of people don't look upon as bad. Trash can gets alittle fatter.

me, I don't like strays, but its mainly cuz my dog wants to go outside all the time to stare at cats for no reason. Egh.

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Re: Will this be deadly?--A question for any botanists/chemists

Postby Kasperl » Sat Apr 05, 2008 10:09 am UTC

Do you have access to a laboratory? If so, you could probably just do a chromatography experiment, or try an NMR or IR experiment. Just see if the final product contains any of the poison.
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