Are Sago Plants Toxic to Humans

Plants are known to be one of the early forms of food sources. Many scientists may not agree, but from the point of view of human beings, plant food was one of the earliest forms of food consumed. These days, it is still true as people continue to eat plants in some form or another.

Some people choose to eat a vegetarian diet which consists mainly of plants and other natural sources. This diet is one of the most popular diets in the world. Other people choose to eat meat and other animal products, but as plants are very nutritious, they will often include them as part of their meals.

Foods considered plant-based include grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. These are all full of vitamins and minerals essential for the body. But did you know that some plants be toxic too? There are wide varieties of plants that contain toxins, and these can cause serious harm to a person if they eat them. One such example is Sago’s palms.

Sago palms are one of the most popular houseplants but are also potentially deadly. All parts of the sago palm are poisonous to humans, and ingesting even a small amount can be lethal. The seeds contain a toxin. This is toxic to both humans and animals.

What Are Sago Plants?

Although sago palms (Cycas revoluta) might look inoffensive and welcoming, the hearty plants are poisonous to humans and pets. Cycads have many uses, such as potted plants indoors or outdoor shrub borders. Sago’s palms grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 10.

Sago plants are a type of cycad, a tropical plant found mainly in Asia and Australia and has been introduced to much of the world through the horticultural trade. These plants get their name from their large seeds, which resemble the texture and shape of sago starch extracted from another type of palm tree.

Although sago palms have many uses as ornamental houseplants or outdoor shrubs in warmer climates, they are also very toxic to humans and pets if ingested. The seeds contain a toxin called cycasin, which can be lethal if consumed in small amounts.

All parts of the plant are toxic to humans, including the seeds, leaves, and roots. The toxicity is due to several chemicals in the plant, including cycasin, Betamethylamino L-alanine, and neurotoxic amino acids.

Uses of Sago Plants

One of the most common uses of sago plants is ornamental houseplants or outdoor shrubs in warmer climates. Due to their attractive appearance and tolerance for wet soils, they are also used for landscaping, such as around ponds and streams. Additionally, some people use sago palms for their edible seeds, which can be ground into flour or pressed to extract their starch.

Despite their toxicity, sago palms are fascinating plants with many useful applications. They are an important part of tropical landscaping and horticulture and continue to be widely grown worldwide.

There is no reason to avoid them completely. If you take steps to prevent exposure and ingestion, they can be safely enjoyed in the garden or home without posing a risk to your health.

However, it is important to note that all parts of the plant contain toxins and should only be consumed with extreme caution. Therefore, it is best to avoid interaction with any part of a sago plant unless under strict supervision. Additionally, it is important to keep these plants away from pets and children, as accidental poisoning can occur.

Toxins Found In Sago Plants


Cycasin is a type of toxin found in the seeds of sago plants, also known as cycads. This chemical is responsible for the plant’s toxicity and can be harmful to both humans and pets if ingested. It disrupts normal cell function and causes damage to various organs, including the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.

There is no antidote for cycasin poisoning, so it is extremely important to avoid ingesting any part of sago plants. If you suspect that someone has consumed these plants, seek immediate medical attention to prevent serious complications or death.

Betamethylamino L-alanine

Betamethylamino l-alanine, also known as BMAA or β-MeA, is a nonsteroidal, naturally occurring amino acid that has been isolated from the fruit of the cycad plant.

This substance is considered an analog of glutamate because it shares many characteristics with this compound. Unlike glutamate, however, beta methylamino l-alanine can bind to and activate NMDA receptors in the brain.

Additionally, research has found that this substance can cross over into the nervous system through the blood-brain barrier. Due to these unique properties, it is potentially toxic and has been linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Betamethylamino l-alanine is produced naturally in the cycad plant, which is an ancient species of tree that used to dominate many prehistoric ecosystems. However, today this species occupies just a small percentage of its original range, and populations are known to be quite limited.

Effect of the toxins found in Sago’s palms

Gi irritation is, unfortunately, very common. The first signs of poisoning are depression, drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea – which might not seem like a big deal. However, more severe symptoms could develop if left untreated, including liver failure and neurological problems.

Neurological signs such as weakness, tremors, or seizures; liver damage that may be delayed for 1-3 days; and in addition to the above-mentioned neurological signs, patients with liver damage may also have an enlarged abdomen, dark urine, increased drinking, and urination or discolored feces and yellow coloration of the eyes or skin (icterus),

Liver failure may result in a number of dangerous consequences, such as low blood sugar levels, decreased ability to clot blood, and internal or external bleeding. If these signs are not immediately recognized and treated, the individual may die from blood loss or shock.

Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential toxins in sago palms and take steps to prevent exposure. If you suspect that someone has been exposed to these plants, seek medical attention immediately.

Diagnosis of Sago Poisoning

The diagnosis can be a bit technical as all these symptoms are common in other diseases too. The following lab tests can help in diagnosing the condition,

Blood work: Liver enzymes and bile acids are usually elevated, especially alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, and bilirubin: This can help to confirm that liver damage has occurred in people who have displayed other symptoms of toxicity, such as gastrointestinal upset.

Possible increase in BUN: Elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels may also indicate that the liver is not working correctly, as the liver processes this substance.

Urinalysis: A urinalysis can reveal any abnormalities in kidney function due to poisoning. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, toxins cannot be filtered.

Increased activated partial thromboplastin time, partial thromboplastin time, activated clotting time, and/or prothrombin time: This may indicate that the blood is not clotting properly, which may be a result of liver failure.

Therefore, these tests can be used to determine whether poisoning has occurred and the extent of the damage that has been caused.

Treatment and Monitoring

  • Induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal if you were recently exposed.
  • Provide care that is both supportive and symptomatic
  • GI protectants: If the patient displays symptoms of GI upset, it is important to keep their stomach and intestines protected. This can be done by administering medication such as famotidine or sucralfate, which helps reduce these organs’ inflammation and swelling.
  • After recovery from acute signs, liver damage may be a lifelong complication.

In some cases, blood transfusions may have to be performed to keep up with blood loss and clotting abnormalities. On a related note, liver and kidney function must also be monitored from time to time as these organs are critical in filtering toxins from the bloodstream. If they become damaged due to poisoning, it can lead to serious complications or even death.

Sago Plants and Pets

Your pets, especially dogs, tend to like the taste of these plants. This can be very dangerous, as your pet may ingest a large amount and experience severe symptoms of toxicity.

It is important to keep all sago palms away from pets indoors and out. If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of this plant, contact your veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

How Can You Avoid Sago Poisoning?

The most important step is awareness. Stay aware of your surroundings and be vigilant about potential sources of toxicity. Make sure that your children and pets cannot access these plants, and if you must have a sago palm in your home or garden, keep it well-tended and out of the reach of both people and pets.

The plants grow close to the ground and hence are in reach of pets and children. Additionally, it is vital to keep your eyes open for any signs of toxicity in yourself or others if you suspect they have accidentally consumed this plant or its seed, such as gastrointestinal upset, muscle weakness or tremors, bleeding, pale skin or lips, and dark urine.

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or others after exposure to sago palms, seek immediate medical care.

Sago Palm Tree - Cycas Revoluta - Overall Height 16" to 22" - Tropical Plants of Florida (Plant Only)


Sago poisoning is a serious condition that can cause severe symptoms, including liver damage, decreased clotting ability, and internal or external bleeding. Suppose you suspect that you or someone else has been exposed to this plant.

In that case, seeking immediate medical care and following your doctor’s recommendations for diagnosis and treatment is important. With awareness, proper care, and vigilant monitoring, you can reduce your risk of sago poisoning and protect yourself and others from this dangerous condition.

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