The angel’s trumpet is a beautiful ornamental plant that is normally safe to grow. However, if eaten, the flowers and leaves can be extremely poisonous.

When it comes to beautiful flowering plants, nature has always been somewhat deceptive, especially to curious animals and humans. After all, there’s a reason that belladonna, even with its intriguing magenta and pink hues, has been given the nickname “deadly nightshade.”

But there’s another plant, called angel’s trumpet, that contains the same type of toxic compounds as belladonna — and can be just as dangerous when consumed. Here’s everything you need to know about angel’s trumpet and the effects it can have.

What is an angel’s trumpet plant?

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia candida) is a flowering evergreen plant in the nightshade family with downward-hanging trumpet-shaped flowers — usually in white, yellow, orange, red, or pink.

Angel’s trumpet trees and shrubs enjoy warmer climates, which makes them perfect for greenhouse gardening, and the beautiful bell-shaped flowers release a fragrant scent at night to attract hummingbirds and moths for pollination.

Angel’s trumpet has traditionally been used in folk medicine not only as a hallucinogen, but also to treat everything from pain to wounds, and more.

However, while the angel’s trumpet plant itself is not used in modern medicine, anticholinergic drugs — which are derived from various compounds that can be found in the angel’s trumpet plant — are commonly prescribed for a handful of conditions, including:

How toxic are angel’s trumpets?

Although the angel’s trumpet plant is beautiful to look at, certain alkaloids in the leaves, flowers, and seeds are considered toxic, including:

All three compounds are anticholinergic, which means that they block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a compound responsible for nerve transmission in the nervous system. As a result, anticholinergic compounds can inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system and affect the heart, digestive system, and more.

According to research, ingesting as few as 10 flowers of the angel’s trumpet plant can result in death from toxicity.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens are substances that alter a person’s thoughts, feelings, and awareness. Hallucinogenic drugs cause hallucinations, which are sensory sensations that appear real but are not.

Angel’s trumpet has been shown to cause a handful of symptoms related to changes in perception, including confusion, delirium, wandering thoughts and ideas, and auditory and visual hallucinations.

Are angel’s trumpet plants illegal?

Angel’s trumpet plants are not illegal, and most gardeners can safely grow these plants without ever risking accidental poisoning.

However, some states, like Louisiana, have laws that make it illegal to grow and process hallucinogenic plants for the purpose of human consumption. And while there’s no federal law that directly addresses angel’s trumpet, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) strongly recommends against the recreational use of hallucinogenic substances.

It’s worth repeating that while these flowers may not be illegal to use for their hallucinogenic effect, they are extremely poisonous.

Several case studies have described the harmful and toxic effects of ingesting angel’s trumpet. According to the literature, the most common symptoms of angel trumpet poisoning include:

Many of these symptoms vary in severity depending on how much of the plant was ingested. And in severe cases of angel trumpet poisoning, high doses of the toxic compounds found in the plant can result in death.

As with any suspected case of poisoning, treatment is necessary to help reduce the effects of the poison or toxin, and if necessary, stabilize the person’s vitals. With angel’s trumpet poisoning, treatment can include detoxification, medication, and monitoring until the symptoms improve.

Detoxification

Detoxification is the process of preventing the body from absorbing any more of the ingested toxin or poison.

Usually, a liquid mixture of activated charcoal is administered first to help prevent further absorption. However, in cases of moderate or severe poisoning, gastric lavage (stomach pumping) or endoscopic removal of the plant might also be necessary.

Activated charcoal’s use as a first-aid for poison consumption is precisely what makes it so dangerous to consume regularly. When used as a food dye it can interfere with any medication you’ve taken that day. You should only consume activated charcoal if directed to by poison control or a doctor.

Medication

Medication is sometimes necessary for severe angel’s trumpet poisoning, especially for symptoms like delirium.

An antidote called physostigmine salicylate (physostigmine) can be quickly administered intravenously to help neutralize toxins that have already been absorbed. And in some cases, benzodiazepines can also be used to help calm or sedate a patient during treatment.

Monitoring

Monitoring is important to help identify any emerging symptoms and to keep track of how effective treatment is. Generally, this involves administering extra fluids to keep the person hydrated, and keeping track of vitals to ensure that symptoms are improving.

What is the difference between an angel’s trumpet and a devil’s trumpet?

Devil’s trumpet (Datura) is another flowering plant in the nightshade family that also blooms with trumpet-shaped flowers. However, unlike the angel trumpet plant, the flowers belonging to devil’s trumpet plants generally point down toward the ground, instead of up.

In addition, the seed pods of the devil’s trumpet plant are small, round, and spiky — hence the nickname “thornapple.” Both angel’s trumpet and devil’s trumpet are toxic to humans and animals.

Although the angel’s trumpet plant can be a gorgeous addition to any garden or greenhouse, it’s important to understand that this plant contains compounds that are toxic to humans and animals. Ingesting the leaves, flowers, or seeds of the angel’s trumpet plant can lead to severe poisoning — or in some cases, death.

If you suspect that you or someone you love has accidentally ingested a poisonous plant, call the poison control center immediately, and if necessary, seek emergency medical attention.