Curare: the South American arrow poison
Lee MR
J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2005 Feb;35(1):83-92.


The history of curare is both curious and convoluted. A product of South American culture it emerged in the sixteenth century from the mists of antiquity at the same time as quinine, coca, and chocolate. Like quinine, at first came the extract but no plant, and later the plant but no chemical compound. It took more than 300 years and the efforts of many explorers and scientists to resolve the problem. These included Condamine, Humboldt, Brodie, Waterton, Bernard, Dale, Walker, and King. Finally, the pure compound d-tubocurarine was isolated from the liana Chondrodendron and synthesised. Its specific physiological action was blockade of the effect of acetylcholine at the neuro-muscular junction. Such a paralytic poison could be used to kill oneself or others. The bizarre plot to kill the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, during the First World War is described. Fortunately this nefarious plan was thwarted by the Secret Service!
Harold Griffith
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Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
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Critique of Huxley's Brave New World