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Author:  Daeruin [ Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:39 am ]
Post subject:  Poisons

Is there any information on poisons and their properties? One of my players wants to create an assassin, but there's virtually nothing on poisons in the TROS books that I know of.

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

I had a document on poisonous substances available during the medieval period. It was good because it covered the material's legitimate purpose as well as the toxicology of the substance when ingested.

I will try and dig it up for you. I'm on holidays from the end of this week -- one of my tasks is to complete the herbalism document, so if I can find my copy of the poisons document I will convert it into the same format as the herbalism document and get them both uploaded.


Author:  Caz [ Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

What about TFoB? It's been a while (this is my first post in months I think, been busy writing etc.) but I think there was something on poisons, or at least venoms in there, that if I recall, was easy to modify to whatever poison you desire.

Author:  Daeruin [ Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Thanks, Caz. I didn't think to look in TFOB for some reason. It's just what I needed.

Ian, that info on medieval poisons would be great, too.


Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 12:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Medieval Poisons

A collection of posts from
Edited by Mark S Harris.
Distributed 1994

There are many substances readily available that will kill. Usually "poison" is used to refer to a substance which destroys the health or life of a living being by reason of its chemical constitution, and usually a poison will kill in very small quantities. Poison was usually classed with medicaments in the Middle Ages, and was numbered "in the fourth degree of medicament, wherein the destruction or death of tissue is produced."[1]

The Greeks attributed the discovery of poisonous plants to Hecate, the goddess of sorcery. The Assyrians knew of both vegetable and mineral poisons as long as 3000 years ago. The ninth century Arabs brought poisoning to an art form (not a remarkable feat, when one considers the highly spiced foods that are consumed in the Near and Middle East, all the better to hide noxious substances in!). Galen, Dioscorides and Nicander provided the Classical world with descriptions of poisons, their actions and treatment. These writings were then preserved and enlarged upon by Muslim physicians such as Ibn Wahshiya in his Book on Poisons or the Rabbi Moses Maimonides's Treatise on Poisons and their Antidotes. European works on poisons were largely based on the remnants of classical works available, and on the works of the Arabs. While many innocuous substances were often numbered in the lists of ingredients thought to be poisonous, these were side-by-side with many truly deadly plants and minerals known to such authors as Petri de Abano, who in the 1300's listed mercury, gypsum, copper, iron, rust, magnetite, lapis lazuli, arsenic sublimate, litharge, lead, realgar, cateputria, cucumber, usnea, coriander, hellebore, mezereon, fool's parsley, bryony, nux vomica, colocynth, laurel berries, cicuta, serpentary, and cantharides as poisons in his work, De Remedis Venenorum. Similarly, Magister Santes de Ardoynis mentions arsenic, aconite, hellebore, laurel, opium, bryony, mandrake, cantharides, leopard's gall, cat's brains, and menstrual blood among the poisons in his Book of Venoms, written in 1424.[a]

Poisons were employed historically for many reasons. Albertus Magnus was interested in insecticides, describing a recipe using "arsenic brayed in milk" to kill flies, as well as recommending that one whitewash one's home with a mixture of white lime, opium and black hellebore, "when thou wilt that Flies come not nigh thy house." Another preparation described by Albertus was for animal control: "Take thou this herb [henbane] and mix it with realgar and hermodatalis [Snake's Head Iris] and put them in the meat of a mad Dog and he will die anon."[2] Poisons are often used beneficially in medical treatments, albeit in very small quantity. Oftentimes one poison will be antidotal to another, such as belladonna, which is used as the antidote for poisoning by any of the Amanita mushrooms. Henbane, a deadly poison, was recommended by Pliny for use in earache, though he warns that it may "temptat mentem," or cause mental disorder. A fourteenth century medical treatise gives this procedure for treating dental abscesses:

Si vermes Corrodunt Dentes
Take the sed of henne-bane and the sed of lekys and recheles
and do these III thyngys vp-on an hot glowyng tilstoun; and
make a pipe that hath a wyd hende and hold hit ouer the smoke
that hit may rouse thorwe the pipe into thy teyth and hit
schal sle the wormes and do a-uey the ache.[3]

Since poisons were readily available for legitimate uses, those who would use them for less scrupulous ends had no trouble in obtaining their materials. Poison has been used since the very earliest times as a means to remove undesirable competitors or enemies. To poison a foe was the easiest means of getting rid of him, and the clever poisoner could work in stealth and so avoid the vengeance of relatives or friends of the deceased. To further remove oneself from suspicion, one could hire a poisoner, as was the killer in Marlowe's Edward the Second:

You shall not need to give instructions;
'Tis not the first time I have kill'd a man;
I learned in Naples how to poison flowers
To strangle with lawn thrust down the throat;
To pierce the windpipe with a needle's point
Or, whilst one is asleep, to take a quill,
And blow a little powder in his ears;
Or open his mouth and pour quick-silver down.[b]

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 12:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons A - L

Much of the lore of poisons was incredibly accurate, with descriptions of the symptoms and often the treatments themselves little changed from medieval manuscript to today's toxicology text. Let us look at a few medieval poisons:[c]

ACONITE (Aconitum napellus) or Monk's-Hood was known even in AngloSaxon times, when it was called "thung". "Thung" became the word used for any very poisonous plant. The Greeks termed it "lycotonum" or Wolfs-Bane, and believed that aconite was the first poison created, made by Hecate from the foam of Cerberus. Gerard, a herbalist of Queen Elizabeth's time, wrote, "There hath been little heretofore set down concerning the virtues of aconite, but much might be saide of the hurts that have come thereby."

ARSENIC is mentioned twice in Shakespeare's works. There is an account of an arsenic poisoning in King John Act V Sc 6, and the following is an excellent description of the symptoms of arsenic poisoning from Part Second of King Henry IV Act I Sc 1:

In poison there is physic; and these news
Having been well, that would have made me sick
Being sick, have in some manner made me well;
And as the wretch, whose fever weaken'd joints,
Like strengthless hinges buckle under fire
Impatient of his fit, breaks like a fire
Out of his keeper's arms; ...[d]

BELLADONNA (Atropa belladonna) or Deadly Nightshade takes its name from the practice of certain women who would use eyedrops of the substance to dilate their pupils. This was thought to enhance their beauty, hence "bella donna" or beautiful woman. In Chaucer's time, it was known as "dwale" from the French "deuil" for "grief." Marc Anthony's troops were supposedly poisoned with belladonna in the Parthian Wars, and according to Buchanan's _History of Scotland_, when Duncan I was King of Scotland, Macbeth's soldiers poisoned a whole army of Danes with a liquor treated by an infusion of dwale. Atropine is the chief chemical constituent of belladonna, from the Greek Atropos, the Fate who held the shears that cut short the thread of human life. Symptoms of belladonna poisoning include extreme dryness of the mouth and throat, scarlet rash and convulsions. The symptoms very closely resemble those of rabies, but may be distinguished by the dilation of the pupils.

CANTHARIDES or Spanish Fly is a powerful urinary irritant, much used as an aphrodisiac. Cantharides can cause burns and blistering all through the digestive and urinary tracts. Overdoses may result in convulsions like those produced by tetanus.

CYANIDE may be easily obtained from bitter almonds, the pits of plums, apricots or cherries, and from apple seeds.

HELLEBORE (Helleborus niger) from the Greek "elein, to injure" and "bora, food". Pliny reports the use of hellebore as much as 1400 years before Christ by a man named Melampus, a soothsayer and physician. For this reason, one will occasionally see hellebore referred to as Melampode.

HEMLOCK (Conium maculatum) comes from the Anglo-Saxon "hem, shore" and "leac, a plant". The scientific name, conium, is derived from the Greek "konas, to whirl about," since hemlock causes vertigo. Hemlock, like many poisons, is antidotal to another, and is used to treat strychnine poisoning. Poisoning by hemlock is characterized by a peripheral numbness which spreads inward until the heart and lungs are paralyzed. Hemlock was the State Poison of Athens, and was the death decreed for Socrates, according to the account by Plato:

After reproving his friends for indulging in loud
lamentations, he continued to walk as he had been directed
until he found his legs grow weary. Then he lay down upon his
back and the person who had administered the poison went up
to him and examined for some little time his feet and legs,
and then squeezing his foot strongly asked whether he felt
him. Socrates replied that he did not. He then did the same
to his legs and proceeding upwards in this way, showed us that
he was cold and stiff, and he afterwards approached him and
said to us that when the effect of the poison reached his
heart, Socrates would depart. And now the lower parts of his
body were cold, when he uncovered himself and said, which were
his last words, "Crito, we owe Asculapius a willy. Pay the
debt and do not forget it.[6]

HENBANE (Hyoscamus niger) is a poison related to belladonna. The symptoms are similar to those of nightshade, and are described by Gerard:

The leaves, the seeds and the juice, when taken internally,
cause an unquiet sleep like unto the sleep of drunkenness,
which continueth long and is deadly to the patient. If it is
used in sallet or in pottage, then doth it bring frenzie, and
whoso useth more than four leaves shall be in danger to sleep
without waking.

Albertus Magnus attributed the effects of henbane to the influence of the planet Jupiter, and named it Acharonis. The dead in Hades were supposedly crowned with henbane, and the ghost from Hamlet (I, 5, 69-70) was killed by having henbane poured into his ear:

Sleeping within my orchard
My custom always of the afternoon
Upon my safe and secure hour thy uncle stole
With juice of cursed hebona [henbane] in a vial
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leprous distillment whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body.[e]

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 1:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons M - Z

MUSHROOMS such as those in the Amanita family and others are easily identified by their white gills, warty cap and hollow stem. They may have a milky juice, and often change color when cut or broken. Symptoms of mushroom poisoning include prostration, headache, stupor, wild delirium and fever. Death occurs due to cardiac paralysis. Several cultures utilize hallucinogenic mushrooms in their rites. Eating these mushrooms may well cause one to see visions of God, or die, or possibly both, so extreme caution should be used by any who wish to pick their own mushrooms.

OPIUM is the juice of the unripe seed capsules of the poppy (Papaver somniferum). Morphine is the alkaloid derived from opium, and is named for the Greek god Morphus, deity of sleep. Opium causes a deep sleep and gradual paralysis of the heart and lungs, resulting in death. An intense itching of the nose is sometimes an important symptom of opium poisoning. Opium has many medicinal uses.

SOLANUM (Solanum dulcamara), known as Bittersweet, Garden Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) and the common potato are all members of the same family. Any competent medieval herbalist examining a potato plant would have immediately recognized its strong resemblance to the other, toxic solanum species, and hence assumed that it, too, was poisonous. This is the major reason potatoes were not swiftly incorporated into the European diet after their discovery. Bittersweet and Garden Nightshade have poisonous berries, and in fact the very young shoots of the potato may also contain the toxin.

TARES (Lolium temulentum) is a grass with poisonous seeds. Medieval peasants were sometimes poisoned with tares when they failed to follow the Biblical injunction to separate the weeds from the grain. While any individual poison can kill, many people, especially the Arabs, had a preference for compound poisons. These might contain some very unlikely ingredients, along with some very toxic ones. A compound poisoner's pantry might contain such ingredients as swamp frogs, cantharides, chicks stung to death by hornets, cinnabar, venomous spiders and snakes, ammonium chloride, nenuphar oil, iron sulphide, verdegris, sal ammoniac, crocodiles stung to death by asps, asafetda, salamanders, sulphur, rabid dogs, cherry pits, poppies, black crows drowned in brine, and pennyroyal.[f]

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 1:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons - Administration

A compound poison was most effectively administered in highly spiced foods where the ingredients were minced or chopped fine. Curries, meat pies and haggis were all particularly suitable for the concealment of poison. Here, then, are a few of the simpler period recipes for compound poisons, taken from _The Book on Poisons_ of Ibn Wahshiya, written in the ninth century:

Recipe 1
Using one part minim (white lead), one part litharge (peroxide
of lead), one tenth part oleander leaf, and one tenth part of
black hellebore, cook the ingredients with sesame oil and
rosewater. This mixture is supposedly fatal in about one day.

Recipe 2
Using one mouse stung to death by scorpions, pulverized
euphorbium, spurge and its leaf, hellebore, oppoponax and
mustard, combine all ingredients in a lead crucible, cover
tightly and bury in a dungheap for two weeks. Then grind all
the ingredients well, being certain to reduce the mouse bones
to a fine powder. Add a little saffron. This is supposed to
kill in one day, or two.

Recipe 3
Again using a mouse stung to death by scorpions, ten dirhams
each of opium, black hellebore, hemlock seed and extract, one
dirham of eel brains, prepare as in #2. This mixture is
supposedly fatal in one day.[f]

These last two recipes are true examples of overkill. Assuming that the scorpion venom and various toxic herbs did not do your victim in, the lead compounds developed during the seasoning in the dung heap or ptomaine from the dead mouse, or tetanus from the dung could only add to his misery. Now having this battery of toxins, how to administer the fatal dose to one's victim? The usual method was to conceal the poison in either food or wine. Although this method is exceedingly simple, it works very well. A bribe to the proper servant could mean the demise of the victim, or the murderous banquet-goer might conceal a small quantity of poison in his ring. While most of the so-called "poison rings" were used to hold memento mori, such as a lock of hair from a deceased loved one, the practice of concealing poison in rings goes back to ancient Rome.[7] If this did not suffice, the assassin might poison the fruits in a garden, to catch the prudent person who ate only foods that they themselves had picked. The Emperor Augustus was reported to have been so poisoned by the figs in his own garden. In later periods, the devout (and highly placed) worshipper might be given poison concealed in the Eucharist or in sacramental wine.

Since nosegays and pomanders were often used by the gentry to protect their delicate noses from the unwashed masses, flowers were often poisoned in the fields, and pomander balls made ideal receptacles for finely powdered poisons. One of the strangest methods of olfactory poisoning was that of Pope Clement VII, who is reported to have died of the fumes of a poisoned torch (although why the torch-bearer was not affected is not explained.) Another method of poisoning was through the victim's clothing. Gloves, boots, shirts and other garments might be impregnated with poisons such as corrosive sublimate, arsenic or cantharides. If the absorption of the poison through the skin was not enough to kill the victim outright, often it would produce syphilis-like lesions. This doesn't seem so bad until one realizes that the standard medieval treatment for syphilis was draughts of mercury... another poison.

If none of these methods sufficed, or none caught the fancy of the would-be killer, perhaps specially-made tableware might be the answer. One might present one's host with a goblet impregnated with poison, especially arsenic, which would gradually do him in. Or one might use the more ingenious and cunning method of the poison knife. Such an implement used a blade connected to a pivot in the handle. When the slightest pressure was placed on the cutting edge of the blade, three small, envenomed, needle-sharp spikes were driven into the hand. The poison would ideally act immediately, and the tiny punctures would not even be noticed, leaving coroners to postulate heart attack or stroke as the cause of

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 1:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons - Preventatives

Since poisoning was so widespread, it became a matter of great concern to protect oneself from such a fate. The best way to avoid poisoning was to follow the advice of Maimonides:

As for food of irregular taste such as bitter food, acid, sour
and the like, and any food giving off a bad odor, nothing
should be partaken of them without prior examination of their
reliability.... Care should also be exercised with regards to
foods common in these parts [Moorish Spain]... obviously sour,
pungent or highly-flavored, also ill-smelling dishes... or
those prepared with onion or garlic. All these foods are best
taken from a reliable person, above all suspicion, because the
way to harm by poison is open only with those foods which
assimilate the poisonous taste and smell, as well as the
poison's appearance and consistency.... The proper defense
against such mechanisms is to eat only from the hand of him
in whose services one has the greatest confidence. The trick
is easily done by mixing the poison with wine, because the
latter as a rule covers up a poison's appearance, taste and
smell, and speeds it up on its way to the heart. Whoever
drinks wine about which he has reason to suspect that someone
has tried to outwit him is certainly out of his mind.[h]

In addition, persons of note often employed tasters, who ate and drank of their employers food and wine. If, after a suitable period of time, the taster was still alive and well, the food was declared safe. Many people had dishes and goblets made of various substances "guaranteed" to tarnish or otherwise warn when poison was placed within them. In the sixteenth century, it was believed that beakers of Venetian glass would explode if poisoned wine were placed within. More highly prized than Venetian glass were vessels made of the fabled unicorn's horn. Unicorn's horn has been recommended as a detector or remedy for poison since the time of Aristotle. Ctesias wrote in 390 B.C. that "drinking vessels were made from the horn and those who used them were protected against poisons... provided that, just before or just after taking the poison, they drank wine or water from the cup made of it." In 1553, a unicorn's horn was brought to the King of France, and it was valued at 20,000 sterling. Another princely price was given for the gold cup which Edward IV gifted to the Duke of Burgundy, which was set with jewels and had a piece of unicorn's horn worked into the metal. Most "unicorn's horns" were actually narwhal tusks, although the spiralling horns of various African gazelles and antelopes were often passed off as the magical horn as well. The horn of the Indian rhinoceros was used in the same manner as unicorn's horn, and was believed to have many of the same properties. The Society of Apothecaries adopted the rhinoceros as its crest in 1617 for this reason.

For those who could not afford unicorn horn, many gems and stones were reputed to neutralize the effects of poison. Emeralds were the best gem to use. Maimonides reported that powdered emerald in wine would counteract any poison, although he cautions that the gem must be large and of good quality. Emerald, when waved over suspicious food or drink, was believed to render it safe likewise from poison. Amethyst was also reputed to be effective against poison. It was said that poison placed in a cup carved from a single amethyst would be harmless, and those who drank from such a cup would not become drunk.

While gemstone were more affordable than unicorn's horn, the good stones of sufficient quality to be assumed effective were not inexpensive, and even if the buyer had sufficient funds to allow him to purchase and powder stones worth a king's ransom, oftentimes stones of the necessary quality were just not available. This was not a cause for despair however, since beozar and toadstones were available and very nearly free for the taking. Beozar stones were to be found in the stomachs of deer, which were supposedly fond of dining on venomous snakes. Bezoars could also be found in the stomachs of gazelles, antelopes, and other such creatures. In fact, "stones" formed of lime and magnesium phosphates can be found in the digestive systems of various ruminants. Bezoar stones were first used in Persia, called pad-zahr or "expeller of poison." Bezoar stones were placed in goblets to protect against poison. Toadstones had similar properties. To obtain a toadstone, one was directed to place a large toad on a red cloth, and then wait. Eventually the toad was supposed to spit out his stone on the cloth, which was then to be quickly snatched away. One medieval researcher complained that all he got for a long night's vigil with a toad was an evil disposition from lack of sleep and a surly toad.[8] Another method for obtaining toadstones was "to put a great or overgrown toad (first bruised in divers places) into an earthen pot; put the same into an ant's hillock and cover the same with earth, which toad at length the ants will eat, so that the bones of the toad and his stone will be left in the pot."[9] Toadstones were used in rings, such as the one described in Ben johnson's "Fox": "Were you enamored on his copper rings, / His saffron jewel, with the toadstone in't?" Mary Queen of Scots had a toadstone that appeared in a 1586 inventory as "a little silver bottle containing a Stone medicinable against poison."

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 1:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons - Remedies

If, despite all precautions, one was poisoned, there were many remedies. Not surprising, when one considers the amount of poisoning going on, some of these remedies were not only highly effective, but in the case of Rabbi Maimonides, they might be almost identical to modern medical practice.[10] This was his advice:

Anybody who took food containing poison or who suspects that
what he had taken was tinged with poison is advised first to
try and vomit the food by drinking warm water boiled with
anethum [Peucedanum graveolens, dill] and mixed with much oil.
This is to be drank lukewarm and the whole stomach purged
there with. This is to be followed by much milk, freshly
milked, and repeated vomiting; after a while butter and cream
should be had and vomited again.... Oily substances, such as
milk and fat, neutralize the harmful effect of poison and act
as a protective barrier between the poison and the tissues....
the usual procedure against poisoning... is: application of
vomitives followed by treatment with the simple and compounded
remedies such as rennet, natron [sal nitri or vegetable soda],
asafetida, cabbage seed, ashes of the fig tree, essence of
mulberry leaves...[h]

Maimonides then gives specific instructions for various types of poisonings. For henbane or hemlock, he recommends the bark of the mulberry tree, boiled in vinegar to induce vomiting, followed by milk. For datura poisoning, the rabbi suggests causing vomiting with vegetable soda and warm water with oil, followed by butter, then wine spiced with grated pepper and cinnamon. If the patient had dined on poisonous mushrooms, Maimonides suggests that he take an ounce of barley gruel mixed with two drams borax and half a dram of Indian salt. After he has vomited, he should drink oxymel (a drink of honey and vinegar) and the juice of radish leaves, and vomit again. Next the patient should drink milk and vomit, and lastly he should drink unmixed wine, slowly.

Later medieval antidotes might not be so effective. The best course of action in most cases of poison is to remove as much of the toxin from the body as quickly as possible. Having the victim vomit, then washing the stomach or treating with emetics or purgatives, while unpleasant for the patient were often found to save his life. While certain medieval antidotes were supposed to counteract the poison of their own properties, the best remedies purged the victim. Three remedies are given here:

Who-so hauyth y-dronke poyson other venym - Take dragance
other glandyne [Iris pseudacorus, yellow flag] and mynte, of
all y-lynche moch and stampe hym and tempere hym with wyn and
drynke hit.

For each manner venym and poysonn - Take the mylke of a goote
and sethe it with the seede of chaune [Cannabis sativa, Indian
hemp] to the third dendell and drynke it thre dayes and vnder
heuen is none betere medecyne ne none se goodee.

For poysonn and venym also - Take the iuys of morell and
herhoune and drynke it with old vyne; so he shal caste oute
that venym and fro the poysunn be saued.[11]

Another antidote that was claimed to be effective was Confection of Cleopatra, which was made my macerating musk, aristolochia [probably Aristolochia longa or A. clematis, birthwort], and scorpions together in wine. The last forms of antidote commonly employed in the Middle Ages were amulets and talismans. These were introduced by the Jews, although it was not uncommon for a Gentile to ask the local rabbi for some protective token. An amulet was an item or a piece of parchment upon which certain holy names were written. An amulet must be constantly carried upon the individual's body if it was to retain its power. Talismans were very similar to amulets, but were on the borderline of what a faithful Jew could use, since the talisman was in some respects similar to an idol. The book of Arnald of Villanove, written at the end of the thirteenth century, states that "the image of a man holding a dead serpent in his right hand and its tail in his left is an antidote against poison."

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Sat Dec 20, 2008 1:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Poisons - Bibliography and Notes


Anderson, Frank J. An Illustrated History of the Herbals. NY; Columbia UP, 1977.
Bodin, F. and C.F. Cheinisse. Poisons. London; World University Library. 1970.
Grieve, Maude. A Modern Herbal 2 vols. Darien Conn.;Hafner Publishing. 1970.
Gruner, O. Cameron. A Treatise on the Canon of Avicenna. NY; Augustus M Kelley, Pub. 1970.
Henslow, G. Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century. NY; Burt Franklin. 1972.
Magnus, Albertus. The Book of Secrets. Oxford;Clarendon. 1973.
Maimonides, Moses. Treatise on Poisons and their Antidotes. Philadelphia; J.B. Lippincott. 1966.
Riley MD, Cassius Marcellus. Toxicology: the Nature, Effects, and Detection of Poisons. Philadelphis; P. Blakiston's Son & Co. 1906.
Scarborough, John. Roman Medicine. Ithaca NY; Cornell UP. 1969.
Simpson, Robert R. Shakespeare and Medicine. London; E & S Livingstone Ltd. 1959.
Thompson, C.J.S., Poisons and Poisoners. NY; Macmillan. 1931.
Ibn Wahshiya, Ahmad Ibn Ali. The Book on Poisons. Philadelphia; American Philosophical Society. 1966.
Wainwright MD, John W. The Medical and Surgical Knowledge of William Shakespeare. NY; published by author. 1907.
Zimmels, H.J. Magicians, Theologians and Doctors. London; Edward Goldstein & Son Ltd. 1952.


[1] O. Cameron Gruner. A Treatise on the Canon of Medicine of Avicenna. 355.
[2] Albertus Magnus. The Book of Secrets. 10, 92-93.
[3] G. Henslow. Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century. 8. [4] H. J. Zimmels. Magicians, Theologians and Doctors. 24.
[5] John Scarborough. Roman Medicine. 95.
[6] C.J.S. Thompson. Poisons and Poisoners. 23-24.
[7] _Ibid._
[8] _Ibid._ 46-47.
[9] _Ibid._
[10] While Maimonides' advice is good, if you suspect a modern poisoning, do not look for these directions!! Call your local poison control center or Emergency Services IMMEDIATELY!! It is also good to keep a chart around (often available from the poison center or from your family doctor) detailing common poisonings and the appropriate first-aid measures... follow these ALWAYS IN CASE OF SUSPECTED POISONING!
[11] G. Henslow. 17, 83.

[a] These lists are probably to be found in G. Henslow Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century.
This is from one of the two listed sources on medical items to be found in the works of Wm. Shakespeare, Robert R. Simpson, [b]Shakespeare and Medicine, or John W. Wainwright, MD, The Medical and Surgical Knowledge of William Shakespeare.
[c] Much of the information contained in this section is from Grieve's A Modern Herbal.
[d] Again, this information is from one of the two listed sources on medical items to be found in the works of Wm. Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Medicine, or The Medical and Surgical Knowledge of William Shakespeare.
[e] _Ibid_.
[f] The information of compound poisoning was gleaned both from Ibn Wahshiya's The Book on Poisons and from Rabbi Maimonides' Treatise on Poisons and their Antidotes.
[g] Although I am very unsure of this tidbit, I believe the poison knife was described in C.J.S. Thompson's Poisons and Poisoners.
[h] Rabbi Moses Maimonides, Treatise on Poisons and their Antidotes.

Author:  Caz [ Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

Very cool. Thanks.

Author:  Ian.Plumb [ Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Poisons

I guess it should be mentioned that there are many poisonous substances that were around in medieval times that were not known or at least recorded as being known to be poisonous.

Also, the best example of a poisoner on TV or in cinema I think was in HBOs Rome, Season 2, when Cleopatra was looking to kickstart her journey to the afterlife. Actually in the same series the herbalist in Rome was another good example.

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