Oleg Zabluda's blog
Thursday, November 01, 2012
"Professional" journalists' butt is kicked yet again by the amateurs.
"Professional" journalists' butt is kicked yet again by the amateurs. 

Hurricane Sandy on Bikes in NYC


Electric Eel Fishing. Oldie, but goodie (Sep 19, 2005)
Electric Eel Fishing. Oldie, but goodie (Sep 19, 2005)



Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) died from Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) "Болиголов или Омег", not native to North...
Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) died from Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) "Болиголов или Омег", not native to North America, but brought to the United States as a garden ornamental, then, being a weed, spread all over the place, including San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA).

Poison Hemlock contains several toxic alkaloids, most important and toxic of these being coniine, which has a chemical structure similar to nicotine, and contributes to hemlock's fetid smell. Coniine is a neurotoxin, which disrupts the workings of the central nervous system by blocking the neuromuscular junction (nicotinic receptor) in a manner similar to curare. It is toxic to humans and all classes of livestock.

Ingestion in any quantity could result in an ascending muscular paralysis with eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles, and death, which can be prevented by artificial ventilation until the effects have worn off 48–72 hours later. For an adult the ingestion of more than 100-200mg of coniine (approximately 6-16 fresh leaves, or a smaller dose of the seeds or root) may be fatal.

There have been a number of cases of poisoning in certain regions of Italy due to the consumption of larks (жаворонок) and chaffinches (зяблик), which eat the buds of poison hemlock during April and May. Also, the alkaloid appears to have an addictive effect: goats, cows and pigs have all shown a preference for conium-containing foliage (up to the point of eventual death) if they survive initial exposure.

Coniine is the poison used to kill Amyas Crale in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery "Five Little Pigs" aka "Murder in Retrospect" (1943).

Symptoms: Abdominal pain, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Headache, Weakness, Tremors, Dilated pupils, Weak pulse, Nervousness, Excessive salivation, Convulsions, Coma, Death.


By other theories, Socrates died from Northern Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa) "Вёх ядовитый", which is native to northwestern North America,  is the most toxic indigenous plant in North America. but not present in California. Instead, here we have  *Western Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) "Вёх Дугласа"* and Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) "Вёх пятнистый".

All of those are members of genus Water Hemlock (Cicuta) "Вёх, Цикута" also known as cowbane, children's bane, poison parsnip, false parsley, beaver poison, from family Carrot/Parsley (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) "Зонтичные". It is similar in appearance to parsnips, smells like fresh turnips, and tastes sweet.

There are many edible plants of that family -  

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) "анис"
Thyme (Carum carvi) "тмин"
Carrot (Daucus carota sativus) "Морковь посевная"
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) "петрушка"
Celery (Apium graveolens) "сельдерей"
Dill (Anethum graveolens) "укроп"
Wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) "Женьшень" (order Apiales "Зонтикоцветные")

but genus Cicuta has only poisonous plants. However, all members of family Carrot/Parsley (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) "Зонтичные" closely resemble each other, and Cicuta spp. are often mistaken for edible wild plants such as

Kvanne (Angelica archangelica) "Дягиль лекарственный"
Pignut (Conopodium majus) "земляной каштан"
Queen Anne's lace or Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) "Морковь дикая"
Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) "Пастернак луговой"
Water parsnip (Berula) "Поручейничек"
Sweet flag (Acorus calamus) "татарское зелье" (family Acorus)
Watercresses (Nasturtium officinale) "Жеруха обыкновенная" (family Cabbage (Brassicaceae) "Капустные"

especially the last one. So a common advice is "if you don't know for sure, don't eat anything from the family Carrot/Parsley (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) "Зонтичные", for example Fool's parsley (Aethusa cynapium) "Собачья петрушка", etc.

Water Hemlock contains cicutoxin (an alcohol), a stimulant in the central nervous system, causing neuron overactivity,  resulting in seizures. Ingestion of Cicuta can be fatal in humans. The LD50 in mice is 48 mg/kg (compare to  6 mg/kg for potassium cyanide). The exact toxic dose of plant material in humans is unknown; ingestion in any quantity can result in poisoning. Although cicutoxin is present in all parts of the water hemlock plant, the root contains the highest concentration. Ingestion of a 1-inch portion of the root can be fatal in adults. Poisoning has been reported following children blowing whistles made from the hollow stem of water hemlock plants. Intoxication has also been reported following skin contact with the plant; a case was reported where a family of five people rubbed the plant onto the skin and were poisoned, with two children dying. One gram of water hemlock per kg of weight will kill a sheep and 230 grams is sufficient to kill a horse.

Cicutoxin within 15-90 min produces symptoms of seizures, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, confusion, weakness, dizziness, and drowsiness, perspiration.  Complications of ongoing seizure activity include fever, swelling in the brain, blood coagulation disorders, muscle breakdown, kidney failure, hallucinations, delirium, numbness, dilated pupils, coma, alternating slow or fast heart rate, low and high blood pressure, ECG abnormalities,  ventricular fibrillation, excess salivation (foaming mouth), respiratory distress, turning blue, and absence of breathing. 

Deaths usually occur from respiratory failure or ventricular fibrillation secondary to ongoing seizure activity. There are occasional long-term effects such as retrograde amnesia of the events leading to intoxication and the intoxication itself.


Both Poison and Water Hemlock plant ingestions continue to be a very common exposure for humans (80% children) and animals, accounting for more than 63,000 calls to national poison centers annually. No antidote is available for either toxin.

Note also that toxins in Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock have exactly opposite effects. The former causes seizures and has no medicinal use. The latter causes muscle relaxation and was used in folk medicine and during the war for anti-seizure.

When Marianna Dizik learned about it all, she told me "So do not eat everything you see! Friggin' Socrates (Сократ сраный)! (see
https://plus.google.com/112065430692128821190/posts/7UK8R91AEBc )
This was uncalled for, because I'd have to eat 100g of Hemlock roots to actually die I wasn't eating hemlock, but black berries of some sort. This is not true about my yet unpublished stories about Foxglove (Digitalis) "Наперстянка" from family Plantaginaceae "Подорожниковые".

BTW, the difference between vegetables inedible vs poisonous is about the same as representations irreducible (неприводимое) vs indecomposable (неразложимое).



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