A poison is a chemical substance that can cause injury, organ failure and death. Poisons work at the molecular level to disrupt internal systems of the body. It is interesting to note that nature has been producing its poisons long before mankind even set foot on the planet. While manmade poisons such as nerve agents are the deadliest, poisons created by certain plants and animals are also quite potent. To enhance your knowledge, let’s take a look at some of the deadliest poisons found in nature.
Botulinum – You might have heard of Botox injections that are used to make the skin look youthful and keep wrinkles at bay. The primary ingredient of Botox injections is the deadly neurotoxin poison that is produced by Clostridium botulinum bacterium and other similar species. Botox injections don’t kill, as they utilize a highly diluted form of the poison.
When a human is exposed to Botulinum toxin, flaccid paralysis occurs as the body is unable to release neurotransmitter acetylcholine. You could be exposed to Botulinum toxin via contaminated food or through an intestinal infection or wound. Just 1 mg of this toxin will be enough to kill you if taken orally.
Amatoxins – These are found in certain types of mushrooms and are highly toxic. An Amatoxin works by disputing protein synthesis, which in turn stops cell metabolism and breaks down cell membranes. Liver and heart failure are the usual cause of death in human beings exposed to an Amatoxin. The lethal dose for adults is estimated to be just 0.1 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Ricin – This is found in the seeds of castor oil plant. Ricin works by inhibiting the body’s ability to synthesize protein. As a result, cells are unable to produce the amino acids that are needed for bodily functions. Unlike other poisons, Ricin can be a slow killer. Depending on the amount of Ricin, death can occur within hours or take several days. The lethal dose for humans is around 1 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Strychnine – Naturally occurring in the seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica tree, Strychnine is widely used as a pesticide for rodents, birds and other small vertebrates. Strychnine works by disrupting motor nerve fibers located in the spinal cord. It causes uncontrolled muscle contractions, eventually leading to death by asphyxiation. Just around 120 mg of Strychnine will be enough to kill a human being.
Cyanide – This is probably the most widely publicized poison that often finds mention in books, movies and other media. Cyanide works by blocking the cytochrome c oxidase enzyme, which in turn disrupts oxygen supply to cells. This leads to failure of organs such as the heart and central nervous system. Although cyanide is manufactured in laboratories, it also occurs in nature. It is naturally present in seeds of peaches, apricots, bitter almonds and apples. Some plants also produce cyanide to protect themselves from herbivores. Just around 200 mg of cyanide taken orally can kill you within minutes.