Yew

What other names is Yew known by?

Arbre Sacré des Druides, Chinwood, Common Yew, English Yew, Himalayan Yew, If, If à Baies, If Commun, If de l'Himalaya, If de l'Ouest, Ifreteau, Pacific Yew, Taleespatra, Talispatra, Taxus baccata, Taxus brevifolia, Tejo, Western Yew.

What is Yew?

Yew is a tree. People use the bark, branch tips, and needles to make medicine.

Despite serious safety concerns, yew is used for treating diphtheria, tapeworms, swollen tonsils (tonsillitis), seizures (epilepsy), muscle and joint pain (rheumatism), urinary tract conditions, and liver conditions. Women use it for starting menstruation and causing abortions.

Pharmaceutical companies make paclitaxel (Taxol), a prescription drug for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer, from the bark of the yew tree. They extract paclitaxel, leaving the poisonous chemicals in yew behind.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of yew for these uses.

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How does Yew work?

Yew might affect various parts of the body including nerves, the heart, and muscles.

Are there safety concerns?

Yew is LIKELY UNSAFE for people. All parts of the yew plant are considered poisonous. Yew can cause severe stomach problems and can cause the heart rate to slow down or speed up dangerously. Signs of poisoning might include nausea, dry mouth, vomiting, stomach pain, dizziness, weakness, nervousness, heart problems, and many others. Death has occurred after taking 50-100 grams of yew needles.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

It is LIKELY UNSAFE for anyone to take yew, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:

Children: It is UNSAFE for children to eat the berries or needles of yew. Swallowing one berry can be fatal in a child. Eating the berries or needles can cause the heart to beat dangerously slow or fast.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is UNSAFE for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding to take yew. Yew needles might cause an abortion. Also, taking the needles can poison the mother.

Dosing considerations for Yew.

The appropriate dose of yew depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for yew. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2011