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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

March 2013

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Sunday 31st March 2013

I wondered if I might be able to write a blog about the poisonous plants that have folklore associated with the execution of Jesus Christ and quickly realised that there are a lot of them and I might struggle to include them all.

Before getting to specific plants it is worth thinking about how this folklore comes about. It is similar to the Doctrine of Signatures that I wrote about recently. That is, it is part of trying to understand the world in the absence of the understanding of the science involved. If you want a better description of what I mean by that, together with plenty of laughs, try this YouTube clip of Tim Minchin...more

Thursday, 28th March 2013

An article in Spiegel Online should be good enough to settle, once and for all, what has happened in Portugal in the past 12 years but it won’t because, as we will see, people cling to out-dated notions.

The article is based on an interview with João Goulão, the head of Portugal's national anti-drug program. Goulão is very straightforward about what was expected and what has been achieved...more

Friday 22nd March 2013

I wonder when something becomes known rather than news. I say this because of the publication of a review1 of the diagnostic approach to and management of aristolochic acid nephropathy (AAN) looking at what has been learned about dealing with the condition in the twenty years since it became known.

Of course, it isn’t and if you go to the plant page for Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort, you’ll see that I’ve written extensively about the condition and blogged about it a number of times...more

Wednesday 20th March 2013

I wrote last month about an email from Dr Henry Oakeley explaining how Eranthis hyemalis came by its common name of winter aconite. The email exchange continued and moved onto the general topic of plant signatures.

I’ve always read that the term ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ was coined by William Coles in his 1655 book ‘The Art of Simpling’ though I knew that Pliny wrote about the concept when saying that the seeds of Lithospermum officinale, gromwell, show it should be used to treat stones...more

Wednesday 13th March 2013

Someone is spinning but I’m not sure who or in which direction. Towards the end of 2012, the government announced its plans to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England and Wales. A twelve week consultation period followed, concluding early in February.

Late yesterday, leaks about what decision had been reached following that process began to appear. The suggestion was that, because of opposition to the plan from a number of cabinet ministers, the idea of a 45p minimum unit price would be dropped...more

Sunday 10th March 2013

I’ve been trying for several days to sit down and write about the 2012 annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The problem I’ve been having is that I’ve already written most of what there is to say when I blogged about the 2011 report in February last year. You see, the 2012 report is the same irrelevant attempt by the INCB to justify its own existence.

There are two other problems I have. The first is that the INCB is a target rich environment when it comes to exposing the hypocrisies of the present drug control regime. I’ll give just one example. According to the report’s section on Saudi Arabia, the INCB;

‘commends the country’s government agencies involved in drug control for their commitment and efforts in the fight against drug abuse and drug trafficking’..more

Saturday 2nd March 2013

There’s a classic demonstration of the way the human brain works known as the Selective Attention Test. Here’s one example from YouTube.  Having been told to count the number of passes of the ball, very few people even notice the gorilla walk slowly through the scene. I had that sort of experience when I caught the end of a TV programme earlier this week.

It was a wildlife programme called ‘Johnny Kingdom and the Bears of Alaska’. I’ll confess I was put off watching it because my listing magazine called Mr Kingdom an amateur photographer. For me, the idea that someone who has made a number of wildlife documentaries and was filming wildlife for many years before being discovered should still be called an amateur was stretching the language a bit far...more


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