Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pot Plants for Poison

Pot plants for poison.

A plant dubbed the suicide tree kills many more people in Indian communities than was previously thought. The warning comes from forensic toxicologists in India and France who have conducted a review of deaths caused by plant-derived poisons.

Cerbera odollam, which grows across India and south-east Asia, is used by more people to commit suicide than any other plant, the toxicologists say. But they also warn that doctors, pathologists and coroners are failing to detect how often it is used to murder people.

A team led by Yvan Gaillard of the Laboratory of Analytical Toxicology in La Voulte-sur-Rhône, France, documented more than 500 cases of fatal Cerbera poisoning between 1989 and 1999 in the south-west Indian state of Kerala alone. Half of Kerala's plant poisoning deaths, and 1 in 10 of all fatal poisonings, are put down to Cerbera.

But the true number of deaths due to Cerbera poisoning in Kerala could be twice that, the team estimates, as poisonings are difficult to identify by conventional means. Using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry to examine autopsy tissues for traces of the plant, the team uncovered a number of homicides that would otherwise have gone unnoticed (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol 95, p 123). This also suggests that some cases put down to suicide may actually have been murders, they say.

Although the kernels of the tree have a bitter taste, this can be disguised if they are crushed and mixed with spicy food. They contain a potent heart toxin called cerberin, similar in structure to digoxin, found in the foxglove. Digoxin kills by blocking calcium ion channels in heart muscles, which disrupts the heartbeat. But while foxglove poisoning is well known to western toxicologists, Gaillard says pathologists would not be able to identify Cerbera poisoning unless there is evidence the victim had eaten the plant. "It is the perfect murder," he says.

Three-quarters of Cerbera victims are women. The team says that this may mean the plant is being used to kill young wives who do not meet the exacting standards of some Indian families. It is also likely that many cases of homicide using the plant go unnoticed in countries where it does not grow naturally. A popular text writes:

"To commit suicide, people remove the green fibrous husk
of the seed, take the white fleshy kernel out and mash it with
jaggery (guhr) and consume it as a sweet. For homicide, a few
kernels are mixed with food containing plenty of chillies to
cover the bitter taste of the poison. Death is likely to occur
36 h after ingestion."

That's fine for india, but here, not that many people eat on a regular basis super spicy foods that can hide the taste.

Hrmmm. I wonder, what sort of substance tastes bitter, is served hot with increased solubility, full of oil solute and opens the blood vessels causing the poison to take effect up to six times faster?

Watch your coffee, motherfuckers.

I would assume, as well, that ordering this plant would raise some eyebrows, however, researching this very plant and it's toxic properties seems that it can be easily ordered over the internet.

***Found in: http://toptropicals.com/catalog/uid/cerbera_odollam.htm

"It can be grown in a small pot to show on office desk or everywhere you want for decoration."

Item Size Availability
2470 Cerbera odollam - nut
Chiute, Sea Mango. You can grow this plant from seed as a "Lucky Bean" in a pot or plant it on top of a ground, it will sprout and you will have a nice bushy tree in no time. White fragrant flowers, similar to Plumeria. See picture of the seed and picture of bonsai-1, picture of bonsai-2.
2-3" nut (seed)

2339 Cerbera odollam - plant
Chiute, Sea Mango. Endemic to the Mariana Islands. This is a small to medium-sized tree with dark foliage and showy, white fragrant flowers, similar to Plumeria, but the leaves are smaller.
These are sprouted seeds - picture of plant for sale-1, picture of plant for sale-2.1 gal pot
Price ($) 29.95

The fact this site describes it as an easy to grow plant (Lucky Bean) and aesthetically appealing plant for decoration for use in an office etc, it seems as if this plant can go overlooked. The "Lucky Bean" reference is, for me, the most interesting. They're almost marketing this plant as fun to grow. Kind of makes me remember a class project in primary school where we would grow a bean sprout. Makes me wonder if this is part of a primary school child's curriculum in India, using this particular plant.

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