Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Ciguatera Poisoning, Gambierdiscus toxicus, Gratelle, Intoxication à la ciguatera, ICP, Intoxication Ciguatérique par les Poisson.


Ciguatera is a poison that can accumulate in certain fish. It is not used as a medicine.

People can get ciguatera poisoning by eating normally safe, bottom-feeding, coral reef fish that have collected the poison from the food chain. Ciguatera poisoning tends to occur near areas of disturbed reef, including waterfront construction. Ciguatera poisoning is most common in Florida and Hawaii. Red snapper, barracuda, parrotfish, jacks, and grouper are most commonly contaminated, but over 400 normally safe fish species may contain the poison. There are no good “rules of thumb” for detecting tainted fish. They look, taste, and smell normal. Testing for ciguatera is available in some areas.

How does it work?

Ciguatera interferes with the normal function of nerve cells.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Ciguatera does not have any medicinal uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Ciguatera is UNSAFE when taken by mouth. One bite of contaminated fish can be enough to cause symptoms. The most common symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms include itching; numbness of lips, tongue, and throat; blurred vision; low blood pressure; slowed heart rate; alternating hot and cold sensations; and coma. In severe cases, shock, muscular paralysis, and death can occur. Up to 20 percent of people who get ciguatera poisoning die.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Ciguatera is UNSAFE for anyone, including pregnant and breast-feeding women. One pregnant woman who was poisoned suffered a miscarriage. Breast-feeding women should be especially careful to avoid ciguatera because it passes into breast milk and can affect the nursing infant.


The appropriate dose of ciguatera depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for ciguatera. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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