Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plants and Poison - Cherry Laurel Water

For the past few weeks I have been doing my family genealogy. At the same time, I have been watching a series Who Do You Think You Are, where a number of celebrities from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom trace their ancestors. Today I watched an interesting episode about Alexander Armstrong. The episode I am referring to is featured below.

Armstrong is one of those rare people that come from an aristocratic family. One of ancestors was poisoned by something called Laurel Water. Before watching this episode I did not know what laurel water was, so I went straight to google. The Laurel plant is grown usually as a shading shrub but can be pruned into a tree. It is not uncommon for animals to die from this poison. Farmers need to be careful what kinds of plants they put on their property.

Prunus laurocerasus, also known as cherry laurelcommon laurel and sometimes English laurel in North America, is an evergreen species of cherry (Prunus), native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwesternAsia and southeastern Europe, from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkeyto the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran.[

The poison is distilled from the leaves of this plant. I found a Gardening Website discussing how to grow these dense, shading plants. The poison contained in the leaves is Prussic Acid.

Web MD reads: 
Cherry laurel water is produced by water distillation of cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) leaves. People use the water as medicine. Cherry laurel water is used for treating cough, colds, trouble sleeping (insomnia),stomach and intestinal spasms, vomitingmuscle spasms, pain, and cancer. It is also used as a sedative to promote sleepiness. Cherry laurel water is used in eye lotions. Some people inhale cherry laurel water to improve breathing. Don’t confuse cherry laurel water with wild cherry bark or sweet bay leaf (laurel).

The image to the right is cows that died all in one night because they ate poisonous plants.

These bushes are surprisingly common. They are evergreens, very hardy to frost and freezing temperatures. They are sculpted to create garden mazes and plant ornaments.

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