Did you know:
- Strychnine comes from the seeds of the Strychnos nux-vomica tree found in India and elsewhere.
- It also appears in the bark of some species of this toxic tree.
- The fruit is the size of a large apple, orange in color, has a hard rind, and contains five flat seeds.
- Strychnine poisoning causes stiffness in the jaw, neck, and belly, and eventually leads to muscular convulsions and death from asphyxiation.
- There is no antidote, but early hospitalization can save lives. If a patient survives the first 24 hours then a full recovery is possible.
- This poison is used to kill rodents and small predators in Europe.
- Strychnine has been called the “least subtle” toxin. At first the symptoms resemble a tetanus infection but most people who ingest it know they have taken poison! It is said to cause a great deal of suffering because victims remain conscious until death.
- In the 1904 Olympic Games the marathon was won by Thomas Hicks. He had been given a stiff brandy and two shots of strychnine to enhance his performance.
- In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries this substance was used as a recreational drug. It is also occasionally mixed with street drugs such as LSD, heroine, and cocaine.
But according to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Tobacco, coffee, alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine, are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.”
Inglis-Arkell, Ester. “Strychnine: A Brief History of the World’s Least Subtle Poison,” at http://io9.com/strychnine-a-brief-history-of-the-worlds-least-subtle-1727903421
Stuart, Malcolm. The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism (London: Black Cat, 1987)
Wikipedia. “Strychnine,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strychnine
___. “Strychnos nux-vomica at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strychnos_nux-vomica