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Toxicity of White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and Chemical Extracts of White Snakeroot in Goats

Davis, T. Zane, Lee, Stephen T., Collett, Mark G., Stegelmeier, Bryan L., Green, Benedict T., Buck, Steven R., Pfister, James A.
Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2015 v.63 no.7 pp. 2092
Ageratina altissima, poisoning, humans, exercise, blood serum, enzyme activity, goats, hexane, ketones, milk, milk sickness, plant extracts, poisonous plants, toxicity, tremetone
White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a sporadically toxic plant that causes trembles in livestock and milk sickness in humans that drink tainted milk. The putative toxin in white snakeroot is tremetone and possibly other benzofuran ketones, even though it has not been demonstrated in vivo. Toxic white snakeroot was dosed to goats, and they developed clinical signs of poisoning, exercise intolerance, significant increases in serum enzyme activities, and histological changes. Tremetone and the other benzofuran ketones were extracted with hexane; the extracts and residues were analyzed for tremetone and dosed to goats at tremetone and benzofuran ketone concentrations similar to the original plant material. However, none of the dosed goats developed the disease. The results demonstrate for the first time that white snakeroot is a potent myotoxin in goats and that other compound(s), which may be lost or modified during the extraction process, could be involved in causing trembles and milk sickness.