Is it safe for someone who doesn't react to poison ivy to eat the berries? I am not going to try it without authority from someone who knows. Is it like smoke from burning vines, that can affect even an immune person?

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    The word "should" seems wrong. How about "is it safe to..."
    – Lost
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 14:30
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    I noticed the -1, I'm not sure this is a bad question, even though it sounds crazy. It fits the format, it's pertinent towards the outdoors, and even though it seems obvious to some of us, clearly it is not obvious to all. So... why the -1? Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 14:47
  • I hesitate to +1 it, because the question is flawed (the "immune" aspect is what bothers me). Otherwise, I agree that it is a fine (though somewhat crazy) question.
    – Greg.Ley
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 19:54
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    The native Americans would cut a piece of poison ivy vine in in late March early April and boil in water and drink it to Prevent the ivy itch all summer long never read of berries but there all over the woods now ???
    – user8182
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 4:38
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    I was told by an experienced outdoorsman that he, as a youth, accidentally ingested some poison oak (by cooking hotdogs on poison oak sticks I think). He said the next few days were very, very uncomfortable, but for the rest of his life he had no problems with it. YMMV.
    – Pepi
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 5:42

4 Answers 4


Your body just doesn't have a reaction on skin contact right now. However most people will develop a reaction after enough repeated exposure. While poison ivy doesn't bother me either, I do take basic precautions to not push my luck. With regular contact, you will develop an allergy, and though it could take years, it will take a lot less if you start eating the stuff.

The part of poison ivy that gets you is Urushiol. It's absorbed readily by the mucous membranes of the throat. If you eat the berries and develop a reaction you are potentially developing a reaction all throughout your throat, etc. If this happens, your throat will likely swell shut and... being miles from medical care... you'll die.

I doubt there has been any scientific study on how many times someone has to eat berries before they develop a fatal reaction (it'd be highly unethical).

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    @jmusser -- Yeah, this falls under the list of things I wouldn't even do if I was stranded and starving. Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 13:24
  • On the other hand I've heard of building up immunity but I have no idea how it works.
    – Joshua
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 20:32
  • Would prefer to see a reference as this just seems like a well articulated opinion. So far no answers have shown that these berries are poisonous. Yes, there might be a reaction; but the question is whether the berries are poisonous.
    – nu everest
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 3:09
  • @nueverest -- I've pretty much retired from this site, but I do get emails occasionally. As of when I wrote this and the last I was active on Outdoors, we don't generally require citations and references and it was not the site culture. Perhaps that has changed. In any case, you are free to suggest/make edits to any answer and get them approved by the current mods through the stackoverflow interface for such. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 21:15

Intentional ingestion of poison ivy berries is ludicrous. Knowing what you already know - why even dare to go there? If you are looking for attention getting or want free kicks to get off on you'd be better off playing in traffic. At least in that instance you would have a running head start to get yourself away from the danger. My advice is do not eat or ingest the berries. Worst case scenario is your heart and all other vital organs swell up and/or blister internally! Come to think of it poison ivy looks great from inside a cemetary plot.


Yes, they may be fatal! Is that a risk you're willing to take? As pointed out already even if you eat them once and you're ok, that may not be the case the next time.

If you're unsure of eating anything in particular in the wild I'd stay well away. With something that's known to be poisonous to a large number of people, it just seems silly to even try!

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    -1 for "you're never find out for sure unless you eat them." Although tongue-in-cheek, this seems to suggest (dare?) a dangerous practice. Additionally, there are lots of ways to find out for sure without first-hand experience: ask the experts being one...
    – Lost
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 15:38
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    @LBell It's a fair point, gone now. In terms of "you're never sure", I was referring to the fact that as an individual some poisonous plants / berries can affect you more than others, and (ok, medical tests aside) there's not really a quick way how they'll affect you as an individual. Admittedly not the clearest explanation around, sorry!
    – berry120
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 16:09

I actually ate poison ivy berries when I was a kid and I had no idea what they were, and nothing happened to me. I am immune to poison ivy and I don't know if that was a reaction to me eating the berries. They didn't taste good anyways, they tasted like they would be poisonous, super tart and green tasting left my mouth feeling like cotton. I remember my brother flipped out on me, but i just spit out what I didn't swallow and that was it. Nothing happened except I had to wash out my mouth a bunch to get the taste out.

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    Immunity to poison ivy can change unpredictably. I used be immune, but not any more. Now I get a pretty serious reaction. The same thing happened to my grandfather. He was immune and weeded poison ivy with his hands, until one day it didn't work for him anymore. Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 15:11

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