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Dieffenbachia Poisoning: A Clarification

Richard W. Pohl, PhD
JAMA. 1964;187(12):963. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060250081032.
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To the Editor:—  During the past few years, several communications with regard to the toxicity of Dieffenbachia plants have appeared in The Journal1-3 and in the popular press (Time Magazine). The communications by Drach and Maloney2 and Dore3 have implied that the toxicity of plants of this genus is caused by soluble or insoluble oxalates or by "glycosides." Rizzini and Occhioni4 showed that the toxicity resided in the centrifugate of the juice of the stem (not leaves), and not in the supernatant fluid. Therefore, no soluble compounds are concerned.The filtered juice of Dieffenbachia stems contains no detectable amounts of oxalates. The juice is nearly neutral (pH above 6.5) and could not contain appreciable amounts of free oxalic acid. The author was not able to detect crystals of calcium oxalate either macroscopically or microscopically in the juice after addition of solutions of calcium nitrate or calcium


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