Of course no one would want to poison someone on purpose right? It would be nice to think that was the case, but unfortunately it is not.
There is a wide list of dangerous poisons, but one of the first chemicals that comes to mind when talking of poison is Arsenic. But why has Arsenic become so widely used in medicine? And better yet, why is it the first of choice for a villain when plotting to rid the world of someone?
First of all let me say that I do not condone the act of murder in any way! But none the less these things do happen, so I was pondering why Arsenic has been so widely used for such a crime.
To give you a little history of some occasions that arsenic was used, I discovered in my research that Nero had used arsenic to gain control of the Roman Empire. He used it to poison his stepbrother Britannicus.
During the fifteenth century in Italy, the Borgias actually used arsenic to knock off their political opponents. Then again in the seventeenth century arsenic became so widely used that it soon acquired the nickname “poudre de succession” meaning “inheritance powder”. Now that’s some pretty scary stuff. It would not of been a good time to be in power. You would have to have everything you ate or drank tested or secured to make sure you didn’t fall victim.
Why is Arsenic the Ideal Poison
Arsenic is an odorless, tasteless poison, which makes it ideal for poisoning folks. It can easily be mixed into food or drink and up until the nineteenth century there was no way to test for it. So it could not be discovered in the human body once ingested.
Symptoms of an arsenic poisoning are very similar to cholera, so during that time, death wasn’t a strange occurrence under such symptoms.
Over the course of history there have been many suspicious deaths that were thought to be victims of arsenic poisoning. Such as Napoleon Bonaparte, King George III, Francesco I de’ Medici and the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
What are the Effects of Arsenic Poisoning
There are many different side effects that are common with an arsenic poisoning. One of the major arsenic side effects would be the smell of garlic either from the breath or sweat of it’s victims. There are many other milder symptoms such as the appearance of a skin rash, loss of hair or white lines on the fingernails.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning may include vomiting blood, abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea and also dehydration. There have even been cases that involved the patients urine turning black. Now that’s for sure got to be the scariest side effect, next to death of course.
Arsenic and Medicine
Arsenic’s uses are not all bad though, for hundreds of years arsenic has been used in medicine. The Chinese have used it as a treatment for cancer, and I believe they still use it to this day for that.
Arsenic has been a major ingredient in medicine, such as Fowler’s Solution. Fowler’s Solution was a popular tonic used from the late 1700s up until the mid 1900s. The tonic was used for treating malaria and syphilis and was thought of as a cure.
Another medicine arsenic was used in is Donovan’s Solution. This was used for treating rheumatism, arthritis and diabetes. And believe it or not, during Victorian times, women actually used it as a skin aid, to improve their complexion. I discussed this briefly in my post Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. That is a pretty interesting read if you haven’t read it already.
Of course many questions may arise from all this. Number one, why in the world would people use this stuff in medicine if it is so deadly for you. Secondly, why would someone even consider using it on themselves on purpose.
Why People would use Arsenic
Mild cases of arsenic poisoning will break down blood vessels in the human skin. When this happens it can give a patient the appearance of a healthy looking glow in their face. This of course is the reason Victorian women used it as a facial product.
When you think of medicine, you don’t normally think about the negative side effects. But the truth is, all medication will have some degree of harmful side effects if taken by the right person in the right quantities. Let’s look at it this way. Take a flu shot for instance. A flu shot is essentially a shot of the flu virus itself. By injecting the human body with the actual virus, this enables your system to build immunities to it. So in all actuality infecting yourself in small doses will prevent you from contracting it later. Because your body has built up a resistance to it.
I suppose the same is true for arsenic. Arsenic actually poisons parasites and bacteria in the body which will cure someone of those diseases or infections. But it must be taken in the proper dosage. Even though such medicines are toxic to our bodies, I suppose the benefits outweigh the risks.
So as long as it’s being used by a licensed professional, I can understand the concept of using it in medicine. But people with a vengeance give good things a bad name.
In fact arsenic is still used as treatment today for cases of leukemia. It may also be useful in treating people with autoimmune diseases.
So you see, arsenic is not all bad and it’s one true purpose is not to kill, but to heal. Today forensic science is so advanced that arsenic is no longer a safe bet for poisoning someone. But it was quite interesting to dig into this subject and take a look at some of the history surrounding this stuff. You always see it in the movies where someone drops some rat poison into someone’s coffee and it makes you think…humm…I wonder what that’s gonna do to them. Well, now you know, you can rest easy having gained this wonderful knowledge about arsenic poison and it’s true uses in medicine.
So go tell all your friends, and don’t forget to comment below 😀