Frontier Doc

Strychnine, Hollywood Style

Matt Dillon comes to the rescue again.

matt-dillon

Click image above for larger view

In the Old West, the rancher’s cupboard contained a myriad of hazardous substances, ranging from rat poison and lye (caustic soda for making soap) to lead bars (to melt and cast into bullets) and patent medicines containing mercury, arsenic and even cocaine.

One of my favorite frontier “rat-killers” on that shelf (aside from arsenic, red squill and thallium sulfate) is the botanically-derived alkaloid compound strychnine.

In his 1845 classic A Treatise on Poisons, Dr. Robert Christison stated: “No poison is endowed with more destructive energy than Strychnia [strychnine].”

Describing strychnine’s effects during animal experiments, Christison indicated: “The symptoms are very uniform and striking. The animal becomes agitated and trembles, and is then seized with stiffness and starting of the limbs. These symptoms increase till at length it is attacked with a fit of violent general spasm, in which the head is bent back, the spine stiffened, the limbs extended and rigid, and the respiration checked by the fixing of the chest. The fit is then succeeded by an interval of calm, during which the senses are quite entire or unnaturally acute. But another paroxysm soon sets in, and then another and another, till at length a fit takes place more violent than any before it; and the animal perishes suffocated.”

Christison also describes the demise of a strychnine-poisoned human subject in terms similar to...

The full text of this article is available to True West Magazine subscribers only.

Get instant access to subscriber content on TrueWestMagazine.com!

When it comes to keeping the lore of the West alive, nobody does it better. True West readers get the no-holds-barred, straight shootin' facts about the West from our staff of experts and historians.

Save up to 67% off the newsstand cover price!

1 year (12 issues) - only $29.95
(Newsstand cover price--$71.88)

For even greater savings:

2 years (24 issues) - only $49.95
(Newsstand cover price--$143.76)

3 years (36 issues) - only $69.95
(Newsstand cover price--$215.64) BEST OFFER!

After subscribing, just come back here and register with us by clicking on the register link below.

JUNE 2014

True West Magazine Issue June 2014
Buy This Back Issue: June 2014

JULY 2014

True West Magazine Issue July 2014
Buy This Back Issue: July 2014

AUGUST 2014

True West Magazine Issue August 2014
Buy This Back Issue: August 2014

SEPTEMBER 2014

True West Magazine Issue September 2014
Buy This Back Issue: Sept 2014

OCTOBER 2014

True West Magazine Issue October 2014
Buy This Back Issue: October 2014

True West Site Guide

Mission

True West captures the spirit of the American West with authenticity, personality and humor by linking our history to our present. Whether you call it the Wild West, the Old West or the Far West, America's frontier history comes to life in True West, the world's oldest, continuously published Western Americana magazine.

Western movie fans, re-enactors, history buffs and road warriors, we got your history covered: outlaw, cowboy, Indian, lawman, gunfighter, fur trapper, miner, prospector, gambler, soldier, entertainer and pioneer. Check out these True Westerners now!
 

Product of the Month

The Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

"Your book is fascinating, coupling your powerful illustrations [and] tracking...from birth to Tombstone to the legend [Wyatt] had become;...even Wyatt would approve." --By Hugh O'Brian, of the TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

"Hands down the definitive books on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday." --By Allen Barra, New York Newsday