THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 16th January 2013

I have a degree of hearing loss. I was going to write ‘I suffer from…’ but the truth is I don’t find it so affecting as to cause any real suffering. What I have is some high frequency loss in my left ear.

When I was working at the Alnwick Garden I did find it a bit of a nuisance so, in 2007, I paid for a hearing aid. In 2008, my name, finally, reached the top of the NHS waiting list and I received an NHS aid.

Last year, when I happened to be at the local hospital I asked about review procedures and was told I was due for a retest. You would think that the audio clinic would have an automatic recall process but, it seems, it relies on ‘don’t ask, don’t get’. If you don’t think to enquire about a retest they won’t call you in for one.

Luckily, the wait for a retest was only a few months, not the 12-18 months for the original test, so I went and was re-assessed. The test found deterioration in my hearing though I think that may have quite a lot to do with the ‘improved’ testing procedure meaning I could hear quite a lot of external noise because the fully sound-proofed testing enclosures have gone.

The nurse/technician said the loss was enough to be flagged up to the ENT clinic and I would get an outpatient appointment. That has now arrived and is the reason for me talking about my hearing in this blog.

Included with the appointment was a form for me to complete headed ‘Patient List of Current Medicines’. It asks for details of both prescribed and OTC medicines and says ‘Remember to include…herbal or homeopathic remedies’.

Hypericum androsaemum, St John's wort

Hypericum androsaemum, St John's wort

I’m pleased that the form asks about herbal remedies. Some of these, take Hypericum androsaemum, St John's wort, for example, are well-known to cause interactions with prescribed medicines so it is important that any doctor who might be about to prescribe something new knows what the patient is taking.

More importantly, though I suspect quite likely to be missed, is the matter of supposed herbal remedies that have a history of being adulterated with known pharmaceuticals in order to try and convey some efficacy to an inert plant extract. This item by Edzard Ernst1 refers to a study published last July2 that raised serious concerns about very damaging conditions that could be precipitated by using adulterated ‘natural’ remedies. And that’s without considering the unpleasant problem of contamination also found.

What would be useful would be if someone reviewed these patient medicine lists and looked for any herbal remedies with a record of adulteration or contamination in order to offer advice to the patient but I doubt if a hard-pressed NHS is going to do that.

The other thing I question is the inclusion of homeopathic ‘remedies’ on the form. When my wife received one of these forms, last year, I raised a complaint with the hospital and, eventually, received the usual weasel words about not endorsing homeopathy but needing to know what patients are taking. Again, this would be useful if the hospital had the resources to talk to any patient who listed a homeopathic substance to make sure that this wasn’t being taken in place of medicine but, since those resources don’t exist, it is hard not to see this as an acceptance that homeopathy can have a physical effect from the substance itself.

Having made one complaint and received no satisfaction I don’t see the point of doing so again but I refuse to let the matter pass completely unremarked. So, the only item I’ve written into the column headed ‘Name of Medicine’ is ‘water’.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.