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Questionable Smoker Wood

Matt Walker

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Forgive me for going so far off topic, but this place is my best access to lots of smart people.


This past week I cut a sizable hickory tree with intensions of using the limbs for smoker wood and the log for firewood. This big hickory had some mistletoe living in it. While working in the smaller material I began to wonder how much of the wood the parasite has contaminated. Each place the mistletoe has attached is a swollen area above and below the attachment. I've been cutting those areas out for discard or the wood stove. But I have no idea if the tree as a whole is poisoned? I have left a piece with our local county extension office where the gentleman said he had no answer but would send the piece or a photo to the lab at the University of Tennessee, and would expect an answer next week. He seemed to be more concerned that the mistletoe didn't look right to him than he was about poisoned smoke. I asked these questions on a very active smoking meat forum. 180 views and no response there. Here are photos: Also concerned with the pink lichen, don't remember ever seeing that on any wood. 




Matt Walker                https://www.youtube.com/@onedamascusmaker/videos

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As far as I can tell, the wood is fine, though you might want to continue to discard the swollen area to be absolutely safe.



Is Mistletoe Poisonous?

There has long been concern about the toxicity of mistletoe. There’s a long history detailing the side effects of mistletoe poisoning. But those poisonings involve European mistletoe, not American mistletoe.

Studies have shown that few people have symptoms after eating the berries or leaves of American mistletoe, and no patients observed by these studies died. One study found a very small amount of patients had stomach upset after eating a few leaves.

European mistletoe seems to be more toxic. While it has been used medicinally, highly concentrated doses can cause severe illness.

Mistletoe Poisoning

All parts of American mistletoe contain a toxic protein called phoratoxin. Most times, if someone ingests a small amount of American mistletoe, they won’t have any symptoms. Those that do have mistletoe poisoning symptoms usually have gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting. "

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."


I said that.


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton


So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.


Grant Sarver

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Thanks Geoff, Chemistry isn't a strong point for me. I kinda feel like you are correct, seems like the affected wood is in the swollen areas. And who knows what happens to phoratoxin when it is burned. I do know when poison ivy is burned the smoke is dangerous and half of that word is toxin.


Just found this information: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/mistletoe 

Way over my head, but sounds scary!

Edited by Matt Walker

Matt Walker                https://www.youtube.com/@onedamascusmaker/videos

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Hey Bill, I'm beginning to agree with you. I did hear back from the UT Lab, they said it is fine for cooking but not the swollen areas. As I continue to work the wood I'm beginning to see that it is easy to recognize the contaminated areas. Even well away from the galls. Here are some photos. The first two photos are on a straight piece of 18" firewood one end is clear the other end has the tell-tale spot off center and the last photo is a severely contaminated piece cut near a damaged area. In the second shot you can see the heart wood is darker and the dark brown off center spot is contamination in my opinion. 




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Matt Walker                https://www.youtube.com/@onedamascusmaker/videos

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