White snakeroot contains the toxin tremetol, which can be poisonous if consumed directly or second-hand. When snakeroot is consumed by cattle, the animals' beef and milk become contaminated with the toxin, and ingesting those substances can lead to a condition called milk sickness. Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks, reportedly died after swallowing snakeroot-contaminated milk. Human disease is uncommon today because of current practices of animal husbandry and the pooling of milk from many producers, but milk sickness does still occur.
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