In 1881, of the spotted hemlock (Conium maculaturn), a biennial plant of the family. Celery with a very unpleasant, strong smell of mouse urine, the German chemist August Wilhelm Hofmann isolated alkaloid coniine. Soon the lab Viennese pharmacologist Professor Carl Shroff decided to test the effect of this poison. In addition to the scientific interest was also different: according to the legend on the order of hemlock juice Athenian government in 399 BC. e. Socrates was poisoned.
Historians of ancient Rome Pliny and Tacitus, testified that it was in Greece, hemlock was used for the execution of criminals, and this punishment was very common. It is believed that the execution of poisonous plants introduced at the start of the tyrants 30 (404 – 403 years. BC. E.) During the collapse of the Athenian state. The Romans called poisonous drink from the juice of hemlock «sorbito cicutae».
Some researchers have suggested that in addition to Socratic hemlock in the cup can be mixed with the juice of another plant of the same family – a milestone poisonous or hemlock (Cicuta virosa).
If hemlock Spotted found in gardens and vacant lots, roadsides and landfills, its leaves resemble parsley leaves and stems are clearly visible red spots, cicuta grows along the banks of rivers or lakes, boggy meadows, and sometimes in the water.
Milestones poisonous – Perennial or biennial plant height 60 – 120 cm, stem thick, blank inside, outside reddish. Leaves doubly troyakoperistye, cut into narrow linear or lanceolate lobes.
Hemlock insidious, their pleasant smell carrot rhizome its sweet taste. It resembles a turnip or a radish, but may be seen in the context of transverse partitions dividing the rhizomes on the interior cavity (called "hemlock" is derived from the Greek word «cyein» – «empty"). All plant highly poisonous, but especially the rhizome: 100 – 200 g it is enough to kill a cow, and 50 – 100 g kill sheep.
Poisonous hemlock preserved during cooking and drying. Active principle in the plant is tsikutotoksin, little-studied substance (in its rhizome to 2%) that affects the central nervous system. In animal experiments, in small doses tsikutotoksin depresses the central nervous system, lowering motor activity and blood pressure. Apart from a rhizome tsikutotoksina hemlock open flavonoids quercetin and izoramnetin. In Russian folk medicine, the roots and rhizomes of hemlock used topically for certain skin diseases, rheumatism, gout.
The main poison hemlock, as already mentioned, is coniine. Pharmacologists interested coniine last century, because I think that, as a drug, a great future. After the experiments on animals have found that their death occurs from paralysis of the respiratory muscles. However, on the effects of different doses of coniine per person at the time did not know anything.
In the laboratory of Professor K. Shroff found volunteers – medical students who choose to check the poison myself. Each of them (there were three) on nine put yourself at risk of fatal poisoning. They took an infusion of hemlock, and then talked about their feelings.
Regardless of the dose coniine three minutes after the start of the experiment there is a feeling of heaviness in the head, the face gets hot and red. Obscured consciousness, dizziness occurred, it was impossible to think and focus on something. Deteriorating eyesight, eyes widen, decreased hearing, dulled sense of touch, the skin becomes like a fluffy, it seemed to run her spine. Soon subjects so weak that she could hardly hold her head. When the experiment was over, they could hardly get to the house, walk was automatic, as if they are pushing the body forward, the muscles barely worked. When lifting up the stairs at home, when the need to remove your shoes, they have a fit in the calf and all other muscles that had to strain. Poisoning accompanied by nausea and upset stomach, face to the end of the experiment turned pale, his cheeks sunken, first pulse quickens, then became less and less all the time was weak.
Since this experience has led only to a weak image of the sensations that before death befell Socrates, you can imagine how difficult it was dying from those described by his student Plato in his "Phaedo."
More recent observations of the poison coniine have shown that signs of poisoning occur quickly because coniine, once in the stomach, immediately begins to be absorbed into the blood. It causes paralysis of the central nervous system, the endings of motor and sensory nerves (immobilisation, sensory loss), increased glandular secretions (salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), respiratory failure. Death occurs from respiratory paralysis.
In the literature (Shvaykova, 1975) described three forms of poisoning with this poison: paralytic ("form of Socrates"), and the form of delusional disorder with vertigo view. Most often, all three forms are shown simultaneously.
Hemlock poisoning occur in our time. Its leaves are mistaken for parsley leaves, roots – for the horseradish root, fruit – the fruits of anise. There are cases of hemlock poisoning children. When grazing in areas where there are hemlock and hemlock, there have been cases of poisoning animals.
Was it possible to save Socrates today, having advanced knowledge?
Tsikutotoksin and coniine associated with activated charcoal (gastric lavage with a suspension of activated charcoal) and tannin. The antidote is a 10.5% solution of hydrochloric acid: acid- coniine readily forms salts. Omega toxins to poison administered cardiacs.
Tannin – it gallodubilnaya acid obtained from the "oak apples" – growths on young banded oak, or sumac, smoke tree. Since alkaloids it forms soluble compounds, which are almost not absorbed into the blood. It turns out that a 5% solution of tannin would be enough to save Socrates immediately after the adoption of the poison. But all the events would provide assistance only in the case if they had been taken to resorption, ie to absorption of poisons in the blood. The fact is that for coniine tsikutotoksina and there's no antidote that can neutralize their effects in the blood.