Can you eat buttercups?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat buttercups?” with an in-depth analysis of buttercups, health risks associated with eating buttercups, how to get rid of buttercups and uses of buttercups, if any.

Can you eat buttercups?

No, you can not eat buttercups. Buttercups are not considered safe for health. All parts of the plant including the leaves, sap, petals, shoots, and seeds are harmful for consumption. 

What are buttercups?

Buttercups, often recognised as crowfoots belong to the family Ranunculaceae and the genus Ranunculus. The genus Ranunculus consists of several species and is a common group of seasonal herbaceous plants with alternately arranged leaves that are either lobed, whole, or finely divided. 

Buttercup flowers are usually pretty yellow in colour with 5 petals that are either in loose clusters or borne singly. The flowers have both male and female reproductive parts that are easy to distinguish. They bloom in the spring season. The fruit is green and ‘spiky’ and looks like a small horse chestnut in its husk.

Buttercups are composed of a compound called ranunculin. When the leaves are damaged or cut, ranunculin is broken down to produce a bitter and toxic oil referred to as protoanemonin. Individual plants tend to be more toxic during the spring season when they are actively blooming. 

Protoanemonin occurs in all parts of the plant but is highest in the flowers and, because the flowers grow taller than the rest of the plant, this increases the risk of exposure to toxins on sensitive skin areas. The toxin evaporates once the plant is cut, so buttercup flowers or leaves that are dried in hay are harmless.

Contact with protoanemonin results in dermatitis. Symptoms appear one hour after exposure and include burning and itching, as well as rashes and blisters.

When the leaves are eaten, sores can develop on the face and lips, along with severe gastrointestinal irritation, dizziness, spasms, and paralysis. The oil is also poisonous for the eyes.

Protoanemonin additionally breaks down into a harmless compound called anemonin, so dried out or dead leaves are usually not harmful. 

Commonly encountered toxic species include tall buttercup, cursed buttercup, creeping buttercup, little leaf buttercup, and sagebrush buttercup and bulbous buttercup which when fresh, have poisonous tuberous roots but are considered safe if boiled thoroughly or dried completely.

Health risks associated with eating butter cups

Raw buttercup is unsafe for human consumption. If consumed, it may lead to severe irritation of the digestive tract, with diarrhoea and colic. It can also irritate the bladder and urinary tract. In rare cases, consuming buttercups can trigger symptoms such as convulsions, paralysis, and death.

When exposed to skin, it may cause blisters and burns that are hard to heal. It can also raise the risk of sunburn.

Uses of buttercups 

Despite its toxic effects, buttercups have been used for treating 

  • Rheumatism 
  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitis- inflammation of the main airways in the lung 
  • Fevers
  • Blisters
  • Nerve pain
  • Chronic skin problems

Can eating buttercup kill you?

Some of the toxins in raw buttercup might get destroyed during the drying process, but there is not adequate information to comprehend if dried buttercup is actually safe for consumption.

So if you consume fresh buttercup, you will get a much higher dose of the poisons. Since natural poisons tend to combine with plants in different doses, it is difficult to assess how much quantity of buttercup would be fatal. One flower most probably would not kill you, but it will have a terrible taste.

How to get rid of buttercups?

It is difficult to get rid of buttercups completely, but there are plenty of methods that can help decrease their numbers or limit their impacts.

Spraying: Many different sprays will destroy buttercups, but they should be applied way before the buttercups start to bloom for a valid control rate. It is carried out when the plant is growing actively. 

The type of spray will depend on your circumstances and what other weeds you need to control, so ask your local farm-stockist. The method will need to be repeated several times.

Cutting: Cutting the flowers of buttercups will eliminate the most toxic part of the plant, as the oil instantly diffuses after cutting. 

Harrowing: Harrowing helps to reduce the growth and the spread of the buttercup plant.

Aerating and draining the soil: As buttercup grows in wet compacted soils, improving the soil composition will help decrease and prevent buttercups along with other weeds.


In this short article, we have answered the question, “Can you eat buttercups?” with an in-depth analysis of buttercups, health risks associated with eating buttercups, how to get rid of buttercups and uses of buttercups, if any.