What Is Peppergrass?

Peppergrass (Lepidium venenatum) is a type of perennial herbaceous plant native to South America. It grows up to 6 feet tall and spreads slowly but vigorously from stem to stem. Its leaves are alternate, elliptic or lanceolate, with 4-lobed leaflets and 2 pairs of sepals. They have no petioles; instead they grow upward like spikes along the stems. Their stalks are erect and branched at right angles to each other. The flowers are white, oblong, ovate or trumpet shaped, 1/3 inch across and borne on short stamens.

The leaves contain a toxin called “venom” which causes symptoms similar to those caused by poison ivy, except it’s not fatal. Symptoms include burning sensations in the mouth and throat followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The toxin is produced by a gland near the base of the leaf.

The plant produces seeds that germinate when crushed or chewed. Seeds are small, oval, smooth and yellowish brown in color. They are round and flat, sometimes with a slight curl at their ends. If eaten, they cause severe abdominal pain and cramping for several hours after ingestion. After two days of eating them, symptoms may last longer than three weeks before they subside completely.

What To Do?

Be aware of what is around you. In areas where the plant grows, avoid even stepping on it. When collecting any type of wild edible plants, be sure you know exactly what you are collecting and that all parts of the plant are safe to eat. Eat only a small portion the first time and wait a couple of days to see if you have any adverse reactions.

How To Prevent Poisoning?

If you or someone you know gets sick after eating wild plants, contact your local poison control center. If the victim is unconscious or having difficulty breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Does It Affect Pregnancy?

Some herbs are known to help with morning sickness but pepper grass is not one of them. In fact, any type of plant that causes vomiting and diarrhea during pregnancy should be avoided. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns about using herbal remedies during pregnancy.

When Should You Call?

If you or someone you know has eaten this plant and starts to experience any of the following symptoms, call 911 or the national poison center hotline at 1-800-222-1222 immediately:

difficulty breathing or swallowing

swelling of the throat

difficulty talking, drooling or noisy breathing

excessive sleepiness or inability to wake up.

What Are The Herbal Treatment For Pepper Grass Toxicity?

There are no known specific home remedies or herbal treatments for pepper grass poisoning.

Where Can You Find This Plant?

This plant can be found in the wild in dry, open fields and waste areas. It can easily be grown in a garden as long as it is given full sun and moderately rich soil.

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Tags: Herbs, poison, wild plants

Sources & references used in this article:

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Lepidium papilliferum (Slickspot Peppergrass) as a Threatened Species Throughout Its Range; Final Rule. by US Fish and Wildlife Service – … Peppergrass) as a Threatened …, 2009 – cabdirect.org


Russian knapweed and perennial peppergrass. by EA Helgeson – Bulletin. North Dakota Agricultural Experiment …, 1940 – cabdirect.org

Relationship of consumption of peppergrass by cows to the flavor and indol content of butter. by RV Hussong, S Quam – Journal of Dairy Science, 1943 – cabdirect.org

Continue study of peppergrass on milk flavors. by TM Olson – Continue study of peppergrass on milk flavors., 1940 – cabdirect.org

Determination of some operation and physiological parameters on the precooling of fresh onion, parsley and peppergrass. by E Ișık, B Akbudak, N İzlİ – Ziraat Fakültesi Dergisi, Uludağ …, 2009 – cabdirect.org

Discount effect of peppergrass on milk flavors. by TM Olson – Discount effect of peppergrass on milk flavors., 1938 – cabdirect.org

… Trees, the Grape Vine, &c., to which is Added a Calendar, Showing the Work Necessary to be Done in the Various Departments of Gardening in Every Month … by T Bridgeman – 1840 – books.google.com



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