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Are Holly Berries Edible? (What Happens If You Eat Them)

Quick Answer

While holly berries seem to be everywhere during the festive season, you should never, ever attempt to eat one. Holly berries are not only inedible, but they are also poisonous. Consuming holly berries will lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. If a child eats holly berries, they will become a lot more affected than an adult, and could potentially die. Anyone who has eaten holly berries should immediately seek medical attention.

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ like a bough of holly hung up on your door. There is something so nostalgic about the sight of the spiky green leaves, and the bright red berries that accompany them.

Are holly berries edible? After all, they are berries. Most berries taste great, so it would be reasonable to wonder what a holly berry would taste like.

Before you give in to your curiosity, we highly recommend that you read this article in its entirety.

Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about the edibility of the holly berry, as well as what happens if you do eat one.

Are Holly Berries Edible?

What Happens If You Eat Holly Berries?

If you’re walking along the forest, and find some vibrant red berries growing on a plant with spiky leaves, your best bet would be to walk straight past.

Even if you are really, really hungry, you shouldn’t even attempt to eat them.

But, what if you have already eaten them?

If this is the case, then you’ve likely got an uncomfortable couple of hours ahead of you. 

You may be fine at first, but after an hour or so, the nausea will begin to creep up on you. Soon enough, you will begin to feel very, very sick.

Then, the vomiting will start. Your body will reject the holly berries from your system, causing you to vomit until they are no longer traceable in your body. Unfortunately, this process could last a little while.

Additionally, you will likely experience diarrhea alongside the vomiting. Your body will do all that it can to eject the berries from your system.

This will, in turn, lead to dehydration. Because you won’t be able to hold any food or water down, you will quickly begin to dehydrate, and this will create a cycle of discomfort and, potentially, severe pain.

At this point, it would be best to receive medical attention.

The above example is what would happen if you, as an adult, ate some holly berries.

The experience would be a lot more severe if a child consumed them, which could potentially end in serious illness, or even death.

If your pet consumed some holly berries, it would be unlikely that they would die, but they could become seriously ill.

In the case that you discover that your dog or cat has eaten some holly berries, you should take them to the vet immediately.

Can An Adult Die From Eating Holly Berries?

While it is not likely that you would die from eating holly berries, it is certainly not impossible.

In fact, there have been several deaths reported due to holly berry consumption, and the horrible symptoms that followed.

When a person becomes severely dehydrated, their health begins to decline rapidly. This, in turn, can lead to death if the person does not receive immediate medical attention. 

It can be difficult to eat food, or drink water, when your body is in the midst of rejecting poison, attempting to bring back up any foreign substance that enters the stomach.

This is why we vomit, or have diarrhea, when we have been poisoned; the body is trying to clear itself out.

So, yes, an adult can die from eating holly berries. However, it is unlikely.

The person will most certainly continue to be really ill for a few days, and then they will start to recover, providing that they have received medical attention.

Are Holly Berries Poisonous?

Are Holly Berries Poisonous?

Now that you are aware that holly berries are inedible, and should be avoided at all costs, we will now look into why you shouldn’t eat them, and what effects these berries can have on the human body.

In a nutshell, holly berries contain several toxic ingredients that can make human beings, and other living creatures, extremely ill if they have consumed them. 

For starters, holly berries contain trace amounts of cyanide. The berries contain an ingredient called amygdalin, which when cooked transforms into hydrogen cyanide.

While the amount of cyanide is very small, it is still highly dangerous when eaten by human beings, and can cause a lot of harm to our immune systems. 

While a single berry may cause slight discomfort and swelling, a handful of berries could cause a person to become extremely ill, to the point that they need immediate medical attention.

So, yes, holly berries are poisonous. They contain small traces of poison – cyanide – which can be potentially deadly if eaten in large enough quantities.

What Should I Do If I Have Eaten Holly Berries?

If you have eaten holly berries, you should immediately seek medical help, even if you don’t feel too poorly at the time.

It can take a while for the symptoms to show up, so it is better off to ask for help before you get too ill.

Don’t try any other methods to get rid of the consumed berries, e.g., making yourself vomit. Simply call 911, and then wait for the emergency workers to arrive to assist you.

What Should I Do If My Child Has Eaten Holly Berries?

If you have found out that your child has eaten holly berries, immediately call 911. 

If your child is old enough to tell you that they have eaten holly berries, you know to keep an eye out for symptoms. 

If your child is too young to tell you that they have eaten holly berries, but you are suspicious that they may have, still look out for symptoms, even if you are not 100% convinced that they have consumed any.

While you are waiting – if you have to wait – ask your child how many berries that they ate, at a rough estimate.

This information will help when medical staff ask the same question, as it will speed up the process of getting help for your child.

Give your child some water to drink, but don’t allow them to eat or drink anything else. Then, simply wait for the medical experts to arrive and take over.

What Should I Do If My Pet Has Eaten Holly Berries?

Unlike your child eating some holly berries, it can be more difficult to determine if your pet has done the same, as they cannot tell you with words.

If you find your pet with holly leaves, or components of a holly plant in their mouth, this may be a good indication that they have probably consumed holly berries.

Even if they are not reacting badly, you should still seek immediate help.

Call up your vet, and ask for advice. The vet may simply ask you to keep an eye on your pet to check for any changes in your pet’s health.

As they may not suffer any serious symptoms, and will therefore continue with their lives as if nothing happened.

Additionally, as we said earlier, your pet may not have even eaten any holly berries. However, it is still so important to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are okay.

If your pet displays any of these symptoms, you should take them to your local vet immediately, as it is possible that they have been poisoned:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarreah
  • Excessive head shaking
  • Loss of appetite

Final Thoughts

So, to answer the titular question: no, holly berries are not edible.

Not only are holly berries inedible, but they are also poisonous, containing trades of hydrogen cyanide.

Eating these berries will result in you becoming very ill, inducing nausea and vomiting diarrhea, dehydration, and potential death.

Your best and only option after consuming holly berries is to call 911 and wait for medical attention.

You should do this even if you are not yet experiencing uncomfortable or painful symptoms, as they will appear at some point. 

We hope you found this article helpful and informative.

Jess Smith