Nadia Connabeer

Is Yew not appropriate for a cheese board?

17 posts in this topic

Hi guys,

I have some yew I got for a very good price a few months ago, but they are very narrow waney edge boards.

I would like to make some cheese boards and finish them in a natural product. (beeswax and an oil?)

But having had a look on the internet it seems yew may not be appropriate as its said to be poisonous?

They're beautiful colours and shapes, it would be a shame to waste them or take the waney edges off.

Thanks!

Nadia

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Good to hear from you Nadia. I have no idea if Yew is poisonous, I bow to PB on this. What I do know is I like cheese, I really like cheese  :). Perhaps you could make a longbow or become a luthier (wikipedia not my knowledge). 

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its bad just dealing with raw wood, be careful of splinters as that gets toxins into you quickly. Yew poisoning feels like food poisoning and has the same unpleasant side effects.

 

How poisonous is the yew?
Poison is found in all parts except for the fleshy fruit.
The poison is called Taxine. “The alkaloid ephedrine, as well as a volatile oil and traces of a cyanogenic glycoside, taxiphyllin, are also present.” HMSO 1984
The leaves are more toxic than the seed.
(Paul Greenwood 2005) 

Effect on animals
There is contradictory evidence about the effect on animals of eating yew foliage. There are many recorded instances of animals known to have died from grazing on yew leaves. There are also reports of animals eating leaves without suffering any ill effects. It is not unknown for small quantities of leaves to be added to supplement winter fodder for cattle.
Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man published by the HMSO in 1984 is however unambiguous in its advice: “……..yew should never be fed to animals…….” 
(Copyright © Tim Hills 2005) 

Effect on humans
Fifty to one hundred grams of chopped leaves is considered fatal to adults.
A world-wide investigation in 1998 (Krenzelok et al.) shows 11,197 records of yew poisoning (from all Taxus species) in humans (96.4% in children less than 12 years old) and found no deaths. A 1992 article in Forensic Science International (Van Ingen et al.) stated that only 10 authenticated cases of fatal human poisoning by T. baccata had been recorded in the previous 31 years, and that they were all deliberate.
Krenzelok, E.P., Jacobsen, T.D. & Aronis, J. (1998) "Is the yew really poisonous to you?", Journal of Toxicology Clinical Toxicology, 36, 219-223.
Van Ingen, G., Visser, R., Peltenburg, H., Van Der Ark, A.M. & Voortman, M. (1992) "Sudden unexpected death due to Taxus poisoning. A report of five cases, with review of the literature". Forensic Science International, 56, 81-87.
(Copyright © Fred Hageneder 2005)

Info from: http://www.ancient-yew.org/faqs.shtml#yew

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You decide if you want to take the chance. :)  Its a very common wood around here for furniture and secondary cabinet wood. Its pretty much been banned from manufacturing facilities for use as a secondary lumber. You never know when a guy has a weak heart and should not be exposed to yew at any level.

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Thanks everyone, I guess making some cheese boards wouldnt be so good - that's a shame. I still want to make something out of it though... Some artistic/pretty/natural mirrors? I'm from a hippy town, people would love them ;)

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Mirrors sound cool, the wayney edge would look good. I hear its the in look this season for all discerning hippies!

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i always wanted to make a crotch coffee table out of yew. Probably not the best idea as food could come into contact with it. Its a really nice looking wood when finished with danish oil.

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Does any one know if the Yew in England is the same species of Yew we have here on the west coast of the US?  One one we have here is a conifer. 

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I wouldn't know sorry, I'm not sure where this came from anyway.

On the plus side I've got some Ash off our farm which was cut and stored a couple years ago, edged it up today and its lovely!

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There are i think 10 recognised species of yew in the family Taxus. 

 

Taxus baccata is the english yew, named because we made our bows from it. T brevifolia is the pacific yew and T canadensis is the canadian yew which might be the ones in your area. They are all conifers ranging in size from trees down to shrubs, im not sure if all of them are toxic i would suspect so.

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I have a slabbed log of Yew drying.  Mine is Pacific Yew.  Odd that it's poisonous.  I got this after they stripped all the bark for some cancer fighting ingredient.  Kind of figures.  Seems most of what they use to fight cancer is beyond nasty to the body.  Thanks for the heads up on this.  MKirby, I really can't see using as a coffee table will be dangerous in terms of food contact.  It'll have a finish and I doubt you pile the food directly on the table anyway.  You don't, do you!?  ;)

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Ok so, I get it, it's poisonous.  How is it to work with?  What is it good for?

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