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Journal of Neurology

, Volume 246, Issue 8, pp 667–670 | Cite as

Plant-induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem

  • P. R. Burkhard
  • Karim Burkhardt
  • Charles-Antoine Haenggeli
  • Theodor Landis
Original communication

Abstract

Several plant-derived essential oils have been known for over a century to have epileptogenic properties. We report three healthy patients, two adults and one child, who suffered from an isolated generalized tonic-clonic seizure and a generalized tonic status, respectively, related to the absorption of several of these oils for therapeutic purposes. No other cause of epilepsy was found, and outcome was good in the two adult cases, but the course has been less favorable in the child. A survey of the literature shows essential oils of 11 plants to be powerful convulsants (eucalyptus, fennel, hyssop, pennyroyal, rosemary, sage, savin, tansy, thuja, turpentine, and wormwood) due to their content of highly reactive monoterpene ketones, such as camphor, pinocamphone, thujone, cineole, pulegone, sabinylacetate, and fenchone. Our three cases strongly support the concept of plant-related toxic seizure. Nowadays the wide use of these compounds in certain unconventional medicines makes this severe complication again possible.

Key words Seizure Epilepsy Essential (plant vegetable volatile) oils Terpene 

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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. R. Burkhard
    • 1
  • Karim Burkhardt
    • 1
  • Charles-Antoine Haenggeli
    • 2
  • Theodor Landis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, University Hospital, CH-1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland, e-mail: Pierre.Burkhard@hcuge.ch, Tel.: +41-22-3723311, Fax: +41-22-3728332CH
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, CH-1211 Geneva 14, SwitzerlandCH

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