Poisons: an A to Z introduction

According to Merriam-Webster, a poison is a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

As Paracelsus, a German-Swiss physician and alchemist who established the role chemistry plays in medicine, is supposed to have said 500 years ago, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison: the dose alone makes a thing not poison.”

What he said is true. We are surrounded by potentially deadly substances, a lot of which have therapeutic uses. Yet take too much and they can kill (so successfully, a number have become favourites with murderers).

Of course, we’re surrounded by potential poisons, so why isn’t everyone dying?

Because our bodies are designed to protect us from both natural and man-made toxins. The first line of defense, skin, is made of keratin—so waterproof, tough, and tightly woven that only the smallest and most fat-soluble molecules can get through. Our senses warn us of noxious substances; if they fail there is vomiting as backup. Finally, there is the liver, which turns fat-soluble poisons into water-soluble wastes that can be flushed out through our kidneys. The balance tilts over to toxicity only when we step over the threshold of dosage.

From: National Geographic

Over the next month of A to Z-ing I will be looking at a variety of poisons – common and not-so-common – and the untimely deaths attributed to them.

A to Z starts tomorrow. Come back to learn about a poison that was a favourite in fiction as well as real life. Can you guess what it is?

24 comments on “Poisons: an A to Z introduction

  1. Giggling Fattie

    March 31, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    Ooo a guessing game?! Arsenic?!

    This is such an interesting topic I am EXCITED!

    I’m also at home at LEAST until April 19th… I might jump on A to Z…

    • Oooh, would love to have you jump in too 🙂 I think A is an easy one, I should try and get everyone to guess one of the tricky letters…

  2. Well this will be interesting. I’ll be taking notes, looking for the natural poisons I can find in nature (for my books, of course. Not me!).

    • Jacqui, I have an amazing book of poisons found in nature (email if you want deets). Although a lot of these would be easy to find as well.

  3. I look forward to reading your A to Z challenge as I collect poison bottles! I have a guess for the poison that starts with A but I will not ruin it for other readers.

    • Maggie, that would be such an interesting collection to see. I have always thought poison bottles are such interesting shapes.

  4. Ooo, definitely looking forward to your series. Hmm, I’m thinking “A” could be…arsenic?

  5. Well, I never thought about it. That we are surrounded by poisons and that our body is capabl of potectng us quite efficiently 🙂

    The Old Shelter – Theme Reveal – The Great War

    • I guess nature knew what it was doing when it put us together. Amazing really how our body just does its thing without us being aware.

  6. Bridgina Molloy

    April 1, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Awesome, so looking forward to this.

  7. Even water can be a toxin. A few years ago a story went around about a woman who drank two gallons of distilled water a day and died from it.

    Water has a specific demand for balance and distilled water isn’t balanced; it sucked all the minerals from her.

    • I wonder what made her think distilled water would be a good idea. She obviously didn’t understand osmosis.

  8. I read somewhere about the difference between poison and venom. I bet I’ll learn a lot next month from you.

    • I’ve tried to pick a few obscure poisons as well as some common ones so there should be new information for everyone.

  9. Giggling Fattie

    April 1, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Haha I decided last night at like 10:30 that I actually wanted to do it! 😂 Paul helped with a topic so I’ll get it started today

    • Awesome. Looking forward to seeing what you do this year 🙂 I had hoped to have all mine finished but life… so I still have a lot to write (although all the research and notes were done ages ago, just have to put it all together so hoping I’ll get it done this weekend – not sure what you get, but we have a 4 day weekend for Easter).

  10. Giggling Fattie

    April 1, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    We have the 4 day weekend and then from 12-16 is our spring break so I hope to get them all done ahead of time. But also they will be like a paragraph each so its ok if I dont haha

  11. Giggling Fattie

    April 2, 2021 at 9:36 am

    So lucky!! My kids need to have a solid break. 4 more teaching days and then off! Woooo

  12. For some reason, my comments don’t seem to come through. I wonder if WordPress is playing with me today? On another WordPress blog, it wouldn’t let me through till I signed in with my old WordPress account! Trying this post to see if it makes a difference.

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