Thursday, August 13, 2009

Death from natural causes

I am often in a conversation with someone about some medicine, dietary supplement, or food additive when they make some point like "its not chemical, its all natural, it's from a plant so it can't be bad for you!" At this point a little bit of me dies and I get the urge to go track down their high school biology or chemistry teacher and demand they do a better job.

Plants have had several billions of years experience with chemical warfare. Under most circumstances they really don't want to be eaten so they have developed some of the nastiest poisons known to man to protect themselves. A great example is the hemlock that killed Socrates. Others include Ricin, which you will likely hear about in connection to terrorism and Nicotine. Tobacco kills more people than any other plant I know of... Really, we all know this. Very few of us go out in fields and eat random plants, even I usually know what I am eating when I do because it is really dangerous. Extract any chemical out of one of these random potentially deadly plants and put it in a bottle. Suddenly legions of people will buy into its safety with no further thought.

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