Yew (Taxus baccata, Taxus brevifolia, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus canadensis)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Chinwood, common yew, Coniferae (family), docetaxel, Eibe (Geman), euar (Manx), European yew, hagina (Basque), idegran (Swedish), if (French), Himalayan yew, Irish yew, iubhar (Scottish Gaelic), iúr (Irish), ivenenn (Breton), marjakuusi (Finnish), Japanese yew, NPacific yew, paclitaxel, phloroglucindimethylether (3,5-dimethoxyphenol), porsukagaci (Turkish), snottle berries, snotty grogs, T. bourcieri Carrière, taks (Danish), tasso (Italian), Taxaceae (family), taxine, taxis (Dutch), Taxol®, Taxomyces andreanae, Taxotere®, Taxus baccata L., Taxus brevifolia, Taxus canadensis, Taxus cuspidata, Taxus wallichiana, Taxuspine C., tejo (Spanish), tisa (Romanian), tis (Czech), western yew, ywen (Welsh), ywenn (Cornish).
There are several kinds of yew including the English or European yew (Taxus baccata), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) and Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). All species are considered poisonous; however, there is some debate about the medicinal value of the fruits (arils). The name 'taxus' may be related to the Greek 'toxon' (bow) and 'toxicon' (the poison with which the arrowheads were dressed).
Traditionally, the fruit of yew has been used as an antitussive (preventing or relieving cough), menstrual stimulant, abortifacient (induces abortion), diuretic and laxative. It is reported that the Native Americans used yew extracts to treat rheumatism, fever, and arthritis.
Paclitaxel (Taxol®) was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) as early as 1971 and is now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since 1971, Taxol® has been used as an antitumor drug in clinical trials run by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and has been hailed as one of the most significant advances in cancer chemotherapy in recent history. Since 1990, clinical trials using Taxol® have succeeded in treating advanced ovarian and breast cancers.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), antispasmodic (bark), antitussive (cough suppressing), arthritis, astringent, blood clot treatment, bowel diseases, breast cancer, cancer, cardiovascular health, childbirth (expelling afterbirth), colds, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), diphtheria, diuretic, emmenagogue (menstrual stimulant), epilepsy, eruptions, fevers, gout (foot inflammation), headache, laxative, leukemia, liver conditions, lung cancer, lung conditions, malignant melanoma, nerve damage, neuralgia (nerve pain), ovarian cancer, pain, rabies, rheumatism, scurvy, snakebites, tonsillitis, urinary tract infection, vision enhancement, worms, wound healing.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for yew, and use in adults is not recommended.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for yew, and use in children is not recommended. One chewed berry may be lethal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to yew. There has been at least one report of anaphylaxis following yew (Taxus) needle ingestion.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is little documentation of adverse effects. However, of those reported, the most common adverse effects include dermal rash, tachycardia (increased heart rate), bradycardia (decreased heart rate), arrhythmia (altered heart rhythm), upset stomach and neurological effects. Death secondary to cardiac arrest has also been reported. There is mixed evidence regarding the prevalence of such effects, and caution is advised. Use berries (fruits, arils) with caution.
Pale and cyanotic skin and other skin effects have been reported. Queasiness, dry mouth, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, dyspepsia, and reddening of the lips have also been associated with yew. Taxus baccata L. may also cause gastric lavage.
Although not well studied, yew may cause hypotension (low blood pressure), nasal allergy, mydriasis (dilation of the pupil), or adverse effects on the liver or kidneys. Vertigo, weakness, nervousness, unconsciousness, trembling, discoordination, artificial respiration, and coma may also occur.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Yew is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available evidence. Caution is advised as yew has traditionally been used to induce abortion.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, has been shown to increase the cellular accumulation of vincristine in multidrug-resistant tumor cells. Patients taking anti-cancer drugs should use yew or its derivative product, Taxol®, with caution.
Yew may interact with calcium channel block agents. Caution is advised.
Although not well studied, yew may lower blood pressure. Patients taking blood pressure lowering medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, has been shown to increase the cellular accumulation of vincristine in multidrug-resistant tumor cells. Patients taking herbs or supplements for cancer should use yew or its derivative product, Taxol®, with caution.
Although not well studied, yew may lower blood pressure. Patients taking blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Anderson BD, Shepherd JG, Manoguerra AS. Yew toxicity less than ipecac. J.Toxicol.Clin.Toxicol. 1998;36(7):749-750. View Abstract
Burris HA, III Fields S, Peacock N. Docetaxel (Taxotere) in combination: a step forward. Semin.Oncol. 1995;22(6 Suppl 13):35-40. View Abstract
Kobayashi J, Hosoyama H, Wang XX, et al. Modulation of multidrug resistance by taxuspine C and other taxoids from Japanese yew. Bioorg.Med.Chem.Lett. 6-16-1998;8(12):1555-1558. View Abstract
Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis J. Is the yew really poisonous to you? J.Toxicol.Clin.Toxicol. 1998;36(3):219-223. View Abstract
Lavelle F, Gueritte-Voegelein F, Guenard D. [Taxotere: from yew's needles to clinical practice]. Bull.Cancer 1993;80(4):326-338. View Abstract
Maguchi S, Fukuda S. Taxus cuspidata (Japanese yew) pollen nasal allergy. Auris Nasus Larynx 2001;28 Suppl:S43-S47. View Abstract
Musshoff F, Jacob B, Fowinkel C, Daldrup T. Suicidal yew leave ingestion--phloroglucindimethylether (3,5-dimethoxyphenol) as a marker for poisoning from Taxus baccata. Int.J.Legal Med. 1993;106(1):45-50. View Abstract
Stebbing J, Simmons HL, Hepple J. Deliberate self-harm using yew leaves (Taxus baccata). Br.J.Clin.Pract. 1995;49(2):101. View Abstract
Stierle A, Strobel G, Stierle D. Taxol and taxane production by Taxomyces andreanae, an endophytic fungus of Pacific yew. Science 4-9-1993;260(5105):214-216. View Abstract
Valero V. Primary chemotherapy with docetaxel for the management of breast cancer. Oncology (Williston.Park) 2002;16(6 Suppl 6):35-43. View Abstract
von der Werth J, Murphy JJ. Cardiovascular toxicity associated with yew leaf ingestion. Br.Heart J. 1994;72(1):92-93. View Abstract
Wasielewski S. [Taxol--cytostatic drug from the yew tree]. Med.Monatsschr.Pharm. 1993;16(2):36-37. View Abstract
Wehner F, Gawatz O. [Suicidal yew poisoning--from Caesar to today--or suicide instructions on the internet]. Arch.Kriminol. 2003;211(1-2):19-26. View Abstract
Willaert W, Claessens P, Vankelecom B, Vanderheyden M. Intoxication with taxus baccata: cardiac arrhythmias following yew leaves ingestion. Pacing Clin.Electrophysiol. 2002;25(4 Pt 1):511-512. View Abstract
Wilson CR, Sauer J, Hooser SB. Taxines: a review of the mechanism and toxicity of yew (Taxus spp.) alkaloids. Toxicon 2001;39(2-3):175-185. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017