Alternate Title

  • American yew

Related Terms

  • 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).

Background

  • 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.

Evidence Table

    Disclaimer

    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.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

    Disclaimer

    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. 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 healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Dosing

    Disclaimer

    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.

Safety

    Disclaimer

    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.

  • Allergies

    • 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.

Interactions

    Disclaimer

    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.

Attribution

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().

Bibliography

    Disclaimer

    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 . Selected references are listed below.

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    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
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    View Abstract
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    View Abstract
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    View Abstract
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    View Abstract
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    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