This is the Brugmansia, also known as Datura or Angel’s Trumpet. This beautiful flower (actually almost a tree, they’re so large) grows very well where I lived in California. Its blooms are either pink, pale pink or pale yellow and while they don’t have any impressive smell to them, they attract moths and bats that pollinate them. And the flowers can be huge, some growing to more than nine inches in length.
And they are among the most poisonous plants you could come across.
Eat some flowers and you’ll die a very painful and prolonged death. All it takes is a few of them and your liver fails, your organs shut down one by one and you croak. Most unpleasant way to go. But aren’t they beautiful?
Nightshade is another plant that most people know is poisonous. It is shrouded in gloom, doom and intrigue. It is a plant that when ingested causes you to vomit, your pupils to enlarge and if enough is ingested you are paralyzed and then you die.
But is it possible that a species of plant so poisonous and nasty have beneficial members of that genus?
So what’s this beautiful little flower? It’s also a member of the Nightshade family. And it’s something that we would be very sorry to be without.
That’s right. The humble Potato.
I can almost guarantee that you’ve never had a steaming plate full of potato greens. That’s because they’re poisonous. As a matter of fact if you see any green in the skin from the potato being previously exposed to light, then you’re holding a very, very tiny amount of solanine in your hand. Peeling and cooking rids all but the most minute amounts of the poison (the green you see is actually chlorophyll activated from exposure to light). There is poison throughout the plant, in the leaves and in the stems.
Cooking foliage of the plant could concentrate its toxins and it would be highly inadvisable to eat them. As for the green peels, you’d have to eat about 4½ pounds of them to get sick from solanine, but sick you would become. Anyone would be sick after eating that quantity of peelings.
But aren’t the flowers pretty? And don’t we all love to eat the tubers after frying them in dangerously hot oil and covering them with massive amounts of sodium chloride? What would the world be without our beloved french fries?
And here’s another member of the Nightshade Family that, were we to go without them, there would be no such thing as spaghetti sauce. Or slices of juicy goodness on a beautifully prepared hamburger. And forget about green salads being accentuated by this juicy berry (that’s right, tomatoes aren’t a vegetable, they’re a berry).
Although the vines and leaves are less toxic than their brother the potato, again, they’re not used commonly and they do contain toxins. In Japan, the leaves are eaten sparingly as an accent in certain recipes.
Not only is the tomato a nightshade, but so are peppers both hot and sweet as well as the much beloved eggplant (one of my very favorites). If you have Eggplant Parmesan then two of the main ingredients come from a toxic family of plants.
If you’re as old as the hills (as I am), then there may have been a time when your mom forced you to take some of this plant. Whether you were sick or not. And it’s true that while some of the properties of this plant’s oil are beneficial, the vast majority of the seed’s casing and the remainder of the plant contain a very, very potent toxin: ricin.
A single Castor bean has enough ricin to kill a child, and between four and six beans are enough to fatally poison an adult human. Castor oil contains an incredibly minute amount of the toxin but the leaves, stem and roots contain the toxin. The bean is the deadliest part of what the Guinness Book of World Records says is the single most deadly plant on the entire planet; it is estimated that one pound of purified ricin processed from Castor beans has the potential to wipe out the entire human race.
Okay. All of this creepy botanical information is interesting, but what does this have to do with being bipolar?
It’s like this. You’re walking down a beautiful path and come across an Angel’s Trumpet, Deadly Nightshade or a Castor plant. It might be tempting to touch or taste the plant because after all, how could something so beautiful and appealing be unappetizing or harmful?
And then you have a bite or two and the next thing you know, you’re dying, writhing in pain after being paralyzed, or experiencing severe seizures until your liver explodes. So by tasting the plant you’ve found out the truth: you’ve made a deadly mistake.
As beautiful as some people (like some plants) appear to be, there is only one word that can truly describe them: they are toxic. If you’re in a manic phase of bipolarity, risky things acquire an unusual level of attraction. In some (but by no means all) bipolar people risky behavior is might occur when manic and that behavior can include out-of-character sexual exploits. It is also possible to establish an unrealistic romantic connection with others that are emotional risk-takers, too.
Accidental poisoning by an ill-advised relationship happens all too frequently. But like anyone that lives in the world that is our vast jungle you come to learn about toxins. There are many kinds of toxic people, too. Anyone can and occasionally does succumb to bad judgment or lapses in logical thinking.
When you’re bipolar bad judgment can be more common than you’d like, and making emotional mistakes can have bad consequences. Of course that applies to anyone; no one has the exclusive market on making bad mistakes. But when you’re in the manic stage of bipolar disorder you’ve got to be extra careful. It’s best to question behaviors that are out of your norm. And it so happens that in a manic state you’re often not thinking clearly about those consequences. When one is manic, one does not foresee the results of unthinking action. It’s easier to let in toxic people and engage in toxic situations.
But you don’t have to keep feeding from those toxic nightshades or serve yourself steamed and buttered castor beans. Recognizing what is toxic is vitally important to your mental health. Toxic relationships cause you so much internal (and sometimes external) damage that your mental health demands that you learn what to avoid. And therapy can help teach you about antidotes and preventive measures to overcome and stop toxic relationships.
Therapy teaches us how to love ourselves a little better. And loving yourself means avoiding those toxic relationships that can really give you lots of head and stomach aches and at worst, paralyze and kill you.
Think that toxic relationships aren’t a problem? How about this: intimate partner abuse accounts for over 18.5 million mental health visits per year. One-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are victims of sexual assault by intimate partners.
Worst of all an estimated 16,800 people are killed by intimate partners each year. In the course of my lifetime that is almost 1 million people dead by the hands of those they thought loved them, people they trusted and thought were safe to be with.
Abuse can be not only physical but mental, sexual, emotional, financial and social. Everyone is affected or knows someone who is affected by abuse directly or indirectly. A relationship where abuse comes into play is the most dangerous and toxic of any kind of relationship there is.
Get help. If you are a victim of domestic violence, get immediate help. If you have battered someone, if you have mistreated or abused someone, get help to learn how to change your behavior and stop it. If you are a witness to violence in any way, shape or form, tell someone. You can change it by making every effort to stop it from happening. Saving lives begins with saving your own. Don’t be a victim of a poisonous relationship.
You can’t go on eating poison. I want you to keep on living a healthy, happy and wonderful life, and you can’t do that if you constantly ingest toxic things, whether they be plants or relationships.
Call 1-800-799-SAFE and they can get you going in the right direction.