Angel's Trumpet Poisoning

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 02, 2022
5 min read

Angel’s trumpet, also known as Brugmansia, is a small tree that is common in gardens and greenhouses. Usually used for ornamental purposes, this shrub has distinct pale-colored flowers shaped like trumpets.

However, few people know that these plants are very toxic. Inhaling, touching, and eating any part of an angel’s trumpet can have several side effects and may result in death in severe poisoning cases. Here’s what you need to know.

Angel’s trumpet is a small tree that’s usually found in greenhouses and gardens as an ornamental plant. Its leaves are dull green and have wavy margins, while its wood is soft and allows for many branching trunks. In addition, angel’s trumpet is an evergreen plant, meaning its foliage remains green during multiple seasons.

The most recognizable aspect of the angel’s trumpet is its flowers. These trumpet-shaped, pale flowers give it its name thanks to their beautiful colors and sweet fragrance. Angel’s trumpet flowers can grow to be almost 50 centimeters long, but most stay within the 10-to-20-centimeter range.

Angel’s trumpet is mainly used as an ornamental plant, but its hallucinogenic effects have earned it its place in traditional herbal medicine. Indigenous people of the northern Andes Mountains used it as a remedy and as a tool for their rituals. A shaman usually oversaw these uses.

Lately, a trend involving taking angel’s trumpet as a recreational drug has appeared. Yet, the poisonous aspect of this plant makes this practice very dangerous, with hospitals reporting many poisonings among children and teenagers.

Angel’s trumpet is easily recognizable thanks to its long trumpet-shaped flowers. The shrub doesn’t usually grow over 3 meters high. It has many branched trunks that grow green, hairy leaves that are 10 to 30 centimeters long. Most of these leaves will have a wavy, serrated margin.

Because it’s an evergreen plant, angel’s trumpet doesn’t change much throughout the year. So instead, try to identify it by looking at the leaves and flowers. But make sure not to touch any of them to avoid poisoning.

Angel’s trumpet is a very poisonous plant, causing intense hallucinations, seizures, and even death in the most severe cases. This plant can also cause poisoning through various routes. You can get poisoned by touching, inhaling, or eating almost any part of an angel’s trumpet.

The most toxic interaction you can have with an angel’s trumpet is eating it, which can cause symptoms ranging from intense thirst to coma. Unfortunately, this is also the most widespread poisoning case, as it’s common among psychedelics enthusiasts who choose to take angel’s trumpet.

Inhaling the sweet perfume that emanates from the plant can also have side effects. People who come in contact with that smell often report headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness. In severe cases, respiratory irritation has also happened — a side effect that can be dangerous if you have a respiratory condition like asthma

Finally, touching the sap can also have several side effects. These usually manifest themselves in the eyes, causing temporary blindness. Experts previously thought that you needed direct contact between the eyes and the sap for this to happen. Yet, a recent study shows that simple exposure to one of its flowers can cause symptoms in the eyes.

Although you can also get poisoned by touching and inhaling an angel’s trumpet, ingesting it leads to the most severe side effects. Understanding the initial angel’s trumpet poison symptoms can help you determine when you need medical attention in case of ingestion.

The first side effects appear between one and four hours after the ingestion. Usually, these consist of dry mouth, thirst, and discomfort when looking at bright lights. Dry, flushed skin and blurred vision may also be part of the initial angel’s trumpet effects.

You may also become aggressive, anxious, and delirious as the poisoning progresses. The famous angel’s trumpet hallucinations may also appear at this point. You may also experience a decrease in bowel movements and urination.

Severe angel trumpet poisoning cases may also result in seizures and coma. Unfortunately, deaths have also been reported, so it’s essential to seek medical attention as soon as you start to feel the initial poisoning symptoms.

If you come in contact with an angel’s trumpet, make sure to call the poison control center as soon as possible. They’ll be able to give you precise instructions and tell you the level of urgency of your poisoning. If you instead start to feel any side effects, call 911 and seek medical care.

If you only inhaled or touched an angel’s trumpet, you may not need to go to the hospital. Experts may instead instruct you to stay away from the plant and wait until the side effects disappear. However, ingestion usually warrants a visit to the hospital.

Once in the hospital, doctors will start a series of procedures to minimize the damage of the poisoning. Most angel's trumpet poison treatments start with an intravenous sedation to alleviate aggressive behavior. Then, doctors will use several medications to lower side effects like tachycardia and agitation.

In severe cases, doctors will analyze the possibility of gastric emptying to remove the angel’s trumpet from your body. Once this is done, you’ll have to remain in the hospital until all the side effects disappear.

Luckily, there aren’t any plants that can be confused with an angel’s trumpet. The distinctive trumpet-shaped flowers can help you quickly identify this tree without much margin of error. But another plant known as Datura is similar to angel’s trumpets both in appearance and toxicity.

If you find any medium-height tree with pale leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers, make sure to stay away. Whether it’s a Datura tree or an angel’s trumpet, coming in contact with it can result in severe poisoning and even death.