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Poison and antidote
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cataglottisme wrote in little_details

I need help with a poison, and its antidote.

Setting is alternate universe, something like 18th century Japan / China. Lots of poisoning going around (poisoned blades, powders...), and extensive herbal therapy knowledge.

ETA : This is a for a fanfiction, and the author of the original work has taken many liberties with history and geography, so finding curare or belladona (or any other kind of poison / herbs) in the country is possible. Plus, the trade industry is very active, so pretty much anything existing can be found, as long as you have the money to pay for it.


For the poison, I was thinking of something like curare, which fits nicely the bill. It causes slow paralysis of the muscles, including diaphragm and tracheal ones, cue asphyxiation, since the respiratory muscles are not responding.
Could it be mixed with something else to induce loss of consciousness?
I read that curare antidotes are atropine ( found in belladonna) and neostigmine. Is it true? If so, it'd be helpful because atropine can induce dire hallucinations, amongst other things.

So, could it be realistic to have someone poisoned by something curare-ish, lose consciousness at an early stage (roughly 20 / 30 minutes after poisoning), and receive an antidote with atropine in it, which will stop the curare action, but will induce hallucinations?

Research : spent hours on wikipedia and googling medical / poisoning plants sites. I found a lot of things, but sometimes contradictory. And I'm nitpicking on a couple of details that are specific to the situation.

THANK YOU :3


I can't be sure of this but I think most herbal therapy for poisons were emetics and purgatives - basically clear the digestive tract of whatever you have eaten and if you survive the quite excessive vomiting and diarrheoa you'll be fine. But they generally need to be applied before effects happen to be effective.

If you do a search on herbals you may find something but knowledge in this period is a little sketchy and there was little that actually worked the way it was supposed to and a lot of the information was couched in spells and prayers and a lot of it was placebo effect. If you find the poison first you may then be able to find the antidote (if it exists).

Paralysis does indicate curare and I think you are right about atropine. The problem you have is that neither the frog which secretes curare nor the plant which contains the antidote (Belladonna, assuming you are right) are native to Japan. In theory the curare could be imported but you need to work out how the person making the antidote is a) able to recognise the poison (hang around South America much? Unlikely... Holmes as a Victorian gentleman could get away with this but not an early modern Japanese physician though you may be able to make this plausible) and b) get hold of the antidote (you may have to look for a Japanese plant that has the same chemicals)

Thank you for your answer!
The universe where the scene takes place is pretty eclectic, it is a continent where one country has feudal Japan characteristics, and the country next to it (literally a few days of march away)has pronounced desert characteristics... And so on with 7 or 8 small countries, all drastically different.
The original author took a lot of liberties with geography and history, so finding curare and belladonna somewhere over the continent would not be too much of a stretch, methinks ; ) .

For the emetic part, the original poison (curare look-alike) having been administered through blood contact, emetics and purgatives would be useless, I guess. *sighs*

Ah! If it is 'ye olde not the real worlde' then you have more leeway. You could even, in theory, have a made up plant that has all the effect of the poison rather than an animal toxin or have the toxin be a snake venom or an insect bite rather than frog skin.

Also, there will be a lot more cultural trade if the countries share borders rather than being seperated by oceans. It is easier to walk then commission a ship.

Yes, purgatives do not work on contact poisons... however, that assumes that the physician treating them knows the method of application or the nature of the poison.

Also, there will be a lot more cultural trade if the countries share borders rather than being seperated by oceans. It is easier to walk then commission a ship.

Actually not true; in pre-railway and tarmac days, sea and river travel was hugely more practical than overland. (Multiply so if you needed to get not just yourself but goods around.) I live on the Kent coast on England, and even a hundred years ago it was easier and quicker to hop on a coasting vessel and go north to the Wash or south to the Sussex coast than to travel twenty-five miles or so into the forests of the Weald.

But this is only a short distance. In the situation mentioned, if it were the real world then the journey between Japan and the Rain forests of South America is a lot greater and the sea journey involved both long and dangerous. Therefore, there is less chance of random people making the journey on a whim or simply happening to be born close to the border and so learning some things about both countries. However, if they happen to be neighbouring but seperate countries (in the same way that England, Wales and Scotland existed for many centuries - there are parts of Northumberland and Shropshire that have as many Scottish or Welsh elements to their culture as they have English) then you have a lot more cross over. In fact, in some cases, the people living on the borders may well be subject to the common problem of border shifting - borders change because geographical features vary with time or political treaties happen or wars/invasions occur and suddenly you are no longer one nationality you are another. Alsace and Lorraine are perfect examples of this - caught in that crucial point between France and Germany and so a long contested site.

Basically, more cultural elements of a country can pass between two countries that share a border than can cross an ocean and there will always be a little bit of blurring on the edges where some people show evidence of both cultures. Plus there will always be those who are always crossing borders no matter how well you police them. For example, the Northumberland reavers who would nip across to Scotland, move along a few miles, attack a neighbouring farmstead and claim it was the Scots who did it.

It's my understanding that curare works fast. As in first symptoms appearing within 10 seconds, death within 90. At least for a blowgun dart.

Under the "antidotes and treatments" section, Deadly Doses states bluntly: None. It works too fast.

As in first symptoms appearing within 10 seconds, death within 90.

That sounds questionable. Curare kills by causing respiratory paralysis; even if it shut off breathing instantly, most people can last longer than that on a lungful of air. A small animal maybe, but not a human.

My understanding was that artificial respiration (e.g. mouth-to-mouth) is pretty effective as first-aid, because the effects eventually wear off, but that may be wrong; I don't have a source handy.

Mouth to mouth is a fairly recent phenomenon. To an 18th century physician, if breathing and pulse were stopped you were dead and I am not even sure how much they knew about the pulse at this point - I'd need to go back and look up when the circulation was described accurately... So, while you are correct that the effects do wear off and the patient can be kept alive by artificial means until this happens (basically, until there is time to clear the curare from the synapses) a physician of the time would not think to use mouth to mouth or indeed any medical treatment because the patient is, to all intents and purposes, dead.

Curare is fast. However, smaller doses are used in anaesthesia - as a muscle relaxant to prevent undue movement during surgery. So it is not always deadly. If the dose is too low then it may take longer to kill. However, more than likely, the poisoner would use an excess rather than a carefully measured dose to be absolutely sure.

As in first symptoms appearing within 10 seconds, death within 90.


Curare is fast, but not *that* fast.

"Death for birds would take one to two minutes, small mammals up to ten minutes, and large mammals (e.g., tapirs) up to 20 minutes." (source : http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/economicbotany/Curare/ )

But well, it looks like a 2 hours action is way out of league, when my character weights 100lbs, and when curare can flatten in 20 minutes a tapir weighing from 300 to 700 lbs.
I might try my luck with a very low-dose poisining... Might be too much of a stretch, tho.

What if very little curare was mixed with another poison? After all, the aim of the poisoned dagger was not to kill right away, but to slow the character down, to catch her and make her talk before she dies.
You know, the whole "talk to us, and we'll give you the antidote, you've got 30 minutes left."

Mouth to mouth is a fairly recent phenomenon. To an 18th century physician, if breathing and pulse were stopped you were dead and I am not even sure how much they knew about the pulse at this point - I'd need to go back and look up when the circulation was described accurately...

William Harvey, early 17th century (although Ibn al-Nafis had figured out quite a bit of it back in the 13th).

I agree that in RL 18th century, resuscitation wouldn't have been an option, but I didn't think Deadly Doses was intended to be specific to that era (and the OP's noted that this is a highly anachronistic 18th century, so I'm not making assumptions there).

FYI, tetrodotoxin is present in fish native to Japan, and I believe is more toxic than curare. Symptoms are similar.

Ooh, fugu toxin. Good one.

Thks ^^
But there's no known antidote for it.
I don't want to kill off my chara just yet : s
;3