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View Full Version : Hemlock - how much to kill a man?



Willowmound
08-23-2008, 03:44 PM
My character has an assassination to commit. I'm thinking he might use hemlock. Hemlock, of course, was the poison famously used on Aristotle.

What I can't work out is how much is needed. Nor how it tastes.

Ideally, my character would have dried hemlock leaves crushed to powder, then add the powder to wine.

Would this work? Would the wine taste funny?

Any help greatly appreciated.

Willowmound
08-23-2008, 03:51 PM
I seem to have found most of my answers already here (http://www.inchem.org/documents/pims/plant/conium.htm).

I still don't know how it would taste, though.

alleycat
08-23-2008, 04:06 PM
I've most often heard the taste of hemlock is similar to parsnips, perhaps somewhat more bitter.

It grows wild where I live. It smells like an old tennis shoe if you rub it. I've resisted the temptation to taste it.

Willowmound
08-23-2008, 04:14 PM
Yeah, I came across another resource (http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hemloc18.html). Seems to be bitter, all right. And apparently it smells like mice!

I think a few drops of hemlock juice in a drunk man's cup of wine should go down easily enough.

alleycat
08-23-2008, 04:41 PM
Some liquors are naturally bitter. You could always use that in places of wine. Or something like pastis or Campari.

But a hearty wine such as burgundy would work as well.

alleycat
08-23-2008, 04:45 PM
And apparently it smells like mice!
Makes me wonder how many people have sniffed a mouse.

;-)

Willowmound
08-23-2008, 04:47 PM
It's an historical (810 AD) so I'm limited to sweet wine, non-frothing beer and mead. I know they sometimes added spices to the wine, so I think I'll go with that.

Willowmound
08-23-2008, 04:48 PM
Makes me wonder how many people have sniffed a mouse.

;-)

It it's anything like the smell of rats, I know the smell they mean. It's not unpleasant in itself, just...ratty. Like how dogs smell like dog and horses smell like horse.

alleycat
08-23-2008, 04:55 PM
It it's anything like the smell of rats, I know the smell they mean. It's not unpleasant in itself, just...ratty. Like how dogs smell like dog and horses smell like horse.
Yeah. That why I described it as smelling like an old tennis shoes. Sort of musty, but with the hint of a stronger odor.

Now people will wonder how many old tennis shoes I've sniffed!

Puma
08-23-2008, 05:29 PM
Sort of an off the wall, but you might want to see if you can find out what type of poison Lucretia Borgia had in her ring that she used to drop in people's wine glasses - whatever it was was very effective in small amounts.

Someone up the line said that hemlock smelled like parsnips - there is a cow parsnip that looks very much like hemlock and can be easily confused with it (doesn't have the spotted purple stem). Puma

alleycat
08-23-2008, 05:34 PM
This is off-topic, but I once had to design a child care center, and do a landscaping plan. The owners (wisely) didn't want anything poisonous, or that dropped anything the kids could put in their mouth (even acorns), or had thorns, or that could cause a rash, etc.

I had a hell of a time coming up with a good plan as the requirements eliminated 90% of the plants I might normally have chosen.

You can make a good little poison from yews, by the way.

RJK
08-23-2008, 07:18 PM
I wonder, could you cram enough of the stuff into a cold capsule or other prescription med that comes in a capsule?
I just read a book where the bad guy did that with cyanide.

IceCreamEmpress
08-23-2008, 07:59 PM
Warmed spiced wine would be the best bet. Or the murderer could give it to the victim as a medicine--people expect medicines to taste bad.

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-23-2008, 09:12 PM
Look up "Water Hemlock" for the dose and extraction method.
http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/usdisp/oenanthe.html
Could easily be mashed into the guy's potatoes

The American version:
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/water_hemlock.htm
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hemwat19.html

Has killed people who mistook it for the edible wild carrot (Queen Anne's Lace) which only grows in dry areas.

pdr
08-23-2008, 10:44 PM
tastes sweet and is easy to extract from the deadly nightshade plant.

You only need a few drops, I think that was Lucretia's poison.

IceCreamEmpress
08-24-2008, 01:53 AM
Look up "Water Hemlock" for the dose and extraction method.
http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/usdisp/oenanthe.html
Could easily be mashed into the guy's potatoes

Well, not potatoes if it's 810.

blacbird
08-24-2008, 02:06 AM
I wonder, could you cram enough of the stuff into a cold capsule or other prescription med that comes in a capsule?
I just read a book where the bad guy did that with cyanide.

This would be a true story: The Tylenol murders of the Chicago area in 1982:

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/terrorists_spies/terrorists/tylenol_murders/index.html

This crime generated the ubiquitous "tamper-proof" packaging we now see on pharmaceuticals and other products.

caw

Soccer Mom
08-25-2008, 01:53 AM
tastes sweet and is easy to extract from the deadly nightshade plant.

You only need a few drops, I think that was Lucretia's poison.

And if you want a hint of the smell, smell a tomato plant. They are in the nightshade family and while the fruit is delicious, the plants themselves are toxic.

2Wheels
08-25-2008, 06:36 AM
My antagonist used the root, substituted for parsnips in a stew. Only took a couple of pieces (WIP "The Hemlock Throne" - a trilogy).

NB: also known as cowbane, 'cos cows like to eat it, thinking it's regular wild parsley. Inevitably leads to dead cow syndrome.