Drugs A - Z
Yew (Taxus baccata, Taxus brevifolia, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus canadensis)
Generic Name: Taxus
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Chinwood, common yew, Coniferae (family), docetaxel, Eibe (Geman), euar (Manx), European yew, hagina (Basque), idegran (Swedish), if (French), Himalayan yew, Irish yew, iubhar (Scottish Gaelic), iúr (Irish), ivenenn (Breton), marjakuusi (Finnish), Japanese yew, NPacific yew, paclitaxel, phloroglucindimethylether (3,5-dimethoxyphenol), porsukagaci (Turkish), snottle berries, snotty grogs, T. bourcieri Carrière, taks (Danish), tasso (Italian), Taxaceae (family), taxine, taxis (Dutch), Taxol®, Taxomyces andreanae, Taxotere®, Taxus baccata L., Taxus brevifolia, Taxus canadensis, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus wallichiana, Taxuspine C., tejo (Spanish), tisa (Romanian), tis (Czech), western yew, ywen (Welsh), ywenn (Cornish).
There are several kinds of yew including the English or European yew (Taxus baccata), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) and Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). All species are considered poisonous; however, there is some debate about the medicinal value of the fruits (arils). The name 'taxus' may be related to the Greek 'toxon' (bow) and 'toxicon' (the poison with which the arrowheads were dressed).
Traditionally, the fruit of yew has been used as an antitussive (preventing or relieving cough), menstrual stimulant, abortifacient (induces abortion), diuretic and laxative. It is reported that the Native Americans used yew extracts to treat rheumatism, fever, and arthritis.
Paclitaxel (Taxol®) was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) as early as 1971 and is now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since 1971, Taxol® has been used as an antitumor drug in clinical trials run by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and has been hailed as one of the most significant advances in cancer chemotherapy in recent history. Since 1990, clinical trials using Taxol® have succeeded in treating advanced ovarian and breast cancers.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), antispasmodic (bark), antitussive (cough suppressing), arthritis, astringent, blood clot treatment, bowel diseases, breast cancer, cancer, cardiovascular health, childbirth (expelling afterbirth), colds, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), diphtheria, diuretic, emmenagogue (menstrual stimulant), epilepsy, eruptions, fevers, gout (foot inflammation), headache, laxative, leukemia, liver conditions, lung cancer, lung conditions, malignant melanoma, nerve damage, neuralgia (nerve pain), ovarian cancer, pain, rabies, rheumatism, scurvy, snakebites, tonsillitis, urinary tract infection, vision enhancement, worms, wound healing.
Adults (18 years and older):
There is no proven safe or effective dose for yew, and use in adults is not recommended.
Children (younger than 18 years):
There is no proven safe or effective dose for yew, and use in children is not recommended. One chewed berry may be lethal.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is little documentation of adverse effects. However, of those reported, the most common adverse effects include dermal rash, tachycardia (increased heart rate), bradycardia (decreased heart rate), arrhythmia (altered heart rhythm), upset stomach and neurological effects. Death secondary to cardiac arrest has also been reported. There is mixed evidence regarding the prevalence of such effects, and caution is advised. Use berries (fruits, arils) with caution.
Pale and cyanotic skin and other skin effects have been reported. Queasiness, dry mouth, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, dyspepsia, and reddening of the lips have also been associated with yew. Taxus baccata L. may also cause gastric lavage.
Although not well studied, yew may cause hypotension (low blood pressure), nasal allergy, mydriasis (dilation of the pupil), or adverse effects on the liver or kidneys. Vertigo, weakness, nervousness, unconsciousness, trembling, discoordination, artificial respiration, and coma may also occur.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Interactions with Drugs
Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, has been shown to increase the cellular accumulation of vincristine in multidrug-resistant tumor cells. Patients taking anti-cancer drugs should use yew or its derivative product, Taxol®, with caution.
Yew may interact with calcium channel block agents. Caution is advised.
Although not well studied, yew may lower blood pressure. Patients taking blood pressure lowering medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, has been shown to increase the cellular accumulation of vincristine in multidrug-resistant tumor cells. Patients taking herbs or supplements for cancer should use yew or its derivative product, Taxol®, with caution.
Although not well studied, yew may lower blood pressure. Patients taking blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Tracee Rae Abrams, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD (University of Toronto); Nina Crowley (Northeastern University); Mary Giles, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Cathy Kirkwood (MD Anderson Cancer Center); Lisa Scully, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Anderson BD, Shepherd JG, Manoguerra AS. Yew toxicity less than ipecac. J.Toxicol.Clin.Toxicol. 1998;36(7):749-750.
Burris HA, III Fields S, Peacock N. Docetaxel (Taxotere) in combination: a step forward. Semin.Oncol. 1995;22(6 Suppl 13):35-40.
Kobayashi J, Hosoyama H, Wang XX, et al. Modulation of multidrug resistance by taxuspine C and other taxoids from Japanese yew. Bioorg.Med.Chem.Lett. 6-16-1998;8(12):1555-1558.
Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis J. Is the yew really poisonous to you? J.Toxicol.Clin.Toxicol. 1998;36(3):219-223.
Lavelle F, Gueritte-Voegelein F, Guenard D. [Taxotere: from yew's needles to clinical practice]. Bull.Cancer 1993;80(4):326-338.
Maguchi S, Fukuda S. Taxus cuspidata (Japanese yew) pollen nasal allergy. Auris Nasus Larynx 2001;28 Suppl:S43-S47.
Musshoff F, Jacob B, Fowinkel C, Daldrup T. Suicidal yew leave ingestion--phloroglucindimethylether (3,5-dimethoxyphenol) as a marker for poisoning from Taxus baccata. Int.J.Legal Med. 1993;106(1):45-50.
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Stierle A, Strobel G, Stierle D. Taxol and taxane production by Taxomyces andreanae, an endophytic fungus of Pacific yew. Science 4-9-1993;260(5105):214-216.
Valero V. Primary chemotherapy with docetaxel for the management of breast cancer. Oncology (Williston.Park) 2002;16(6 Suppl 6):35-43.
von der Werth J, Murphy JJ. Cardiovascular toxicity associated with yew leaf ingestion. Br.Heart J. 1994;72(1):92-93.
Wasielewski S. [Taxol--cytostatic drug from the yew tree]. Med.Monatsschr.Pharm. 1993;16(2):36-37.
Wehner F, Gawatz O. [Suicidal yew poisoning--from Caesar to today--or suicide instructions on the internet]. Arch.Kriminol. 2003;211(1-2):19-26.
Willaert W, Claessens P, Vankelecom B, Vanderheyden M. Intoxication with taxus baccata: cardiac arrhythmias following yew leaves ingestion. Pacing Clin.Electrophysiol. 2002;25(4 Pt 1):511-512.
Wilson CR, Sauer J, Hooser SB. Taxines: a review of the mechanism and toxicity of yew (Taxus spp.) alkaloids. Toxicon 2001;39(2-3):175-185.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.