A health blogger in China is reported to have accidentally poisoned herself while eating what she believed was aloe vera, a plant known for its range of health benefits.
The Chinese social media personality known as Zhang was live streaming a video of herself to show the health benefits of the aloe plant. Unfortunately, she bought the wrong type of plant.
What she had was an Agave americana, also known as century plant, whose leaves look similar to those of the aloe. The plant from Mexico does not have any health benefit at all and is also known to be poisonous.
The 26-year-old vlogger eventually realized she used the wrong plant for her video, which has since been circulating on Chinese websites.
She was initially seen saying "yum" and "this is great" while biting what was supposed to be aloe vera leaf. She later realized that there was a problem and complained the plant tasted "bitter." Her mouth then felt numb and a sensation on her throat felt like it was "on fire."
She was reportedly told at the hospital that she did not feast on aloe vera and what she had instead was a dangerous plant. The vlogger reportedly broke out in rashes and blisters and doctors were even forced to pump her stomach. Zhang is fortunately now in a stable condition.
Cactus-Like Aloe Vera Plant
The aloe is a cactus-like plant that tends to grow in hot and dry climates. The gel and latex substances that it produces are used for medicine.
People take the aloe gel by mouth for diabetes, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, asthma, fever, itching, and stomach ulcers. The aloe latex, which comes from just under the skin of the plant and is yellow in color, is mainly used as laxative albeit it is also known to treat other maladies.
Agave Americana: Aloe's Poisonous Look-Alike
The leaves of the Agave are similar in appearance to those of the aloe, but the Agave is not closely related to aloe nor to the cacti plant family.
The Agave has culinary uses. Tequila, for instance, is made from blue Agave plant. The Agave is also as a sweetener that serves as an alternative to sugar in cooking. The Agave plant, though, needs careful preparation because it can be toxic.
The plant's sap contains calcium oxalate crystals called raphides, which can be incredibly irritating, as well as other toxic compounds.
"The raphides of calcium oxalate have been classified historically as a chemical irritant mainly because they allow the penetration of other plant chemical toxins (including proteases, saponins, and other chemicals) that may not normally breach the skin on contact. They also enhance the penetration of known skin irritants," experts from the Baylor College of Medicine wrote in an article published on Medscape.
The most common side effects of contact with saps of the century plant include eye damage, rash, as well as burning and itching of the skin. The symptoms often show up within 24 to 48 hours. Ingestion of the plants can also cause vomiting or diarrhea.