A Poison by Any Other Name Can Still Kill You

Ever wonder how easy it would be to poison someone?

While doing research for my upcoming release, Deadly Devotion, I read about many deaths by poison–some intentional, some not.

Did you know that Jane Austen may have died of arsenic poisoning?

Jane Austen died at the age of 41 and there have been many theories about what caused her early demise. Most recently crime writer Lindsay Ashford, after reading Austen’s journals in which she describes her complexion as “black and white and every wrong color”–much like the raindrop pigmentation caused by arsenic–theorized Austen died of arsenic poisoning. Digging deeper, Ashford learned that a lock of Austen’s hair had been tested and found to contain arsenic.

Of course, if she died of arsenic, it may not have been intentional. Doctor’s dispensed it often in a medicine called Fowler’s Solution for a wide variety of ailments, including rheumatism, an affliction Austen also mentions in her journals. Ashford entertains the idea that it was intentional in her novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen.


Did you know raw elderberries are poisonous?  

Every summer my neighbor treks through the fields to pick the elderberries that grow wild around the hydro towers. These berries are used to make delicious jams and pies, and are harmless once cooked. But don’t eat them raw!

They contain cyanogenic glycoside which causes cyanide poisoning. Definitely not a berry you want to send the kids out to pick for your pie!

Supposedly, if the berry is fully ripe, they are safe to eat and high in vitamin C. Some people juice them, but ensure they’re fully ripe.

Did you know that rhubarb leaves can kill you?

The leaves contain a variety of poisons including oxalic acid. I first read about oxalic acid after experiencing kidney stones. I began juicing and read that those with kidney stones should avoid rhubarb because the oxalic acid metabolizes with Vitamin C which can lead to more stones. Oxalic acid is found in much lower concentrations in the stalks and the levels are considered safe.

But beware of the cook who unwittingly stews the leaves with the stalks! If the meal is eaten, you may find yourself bleeding from the nose and eyes, vomiting, nauseous. Your throat and mouth may burn. You might have difficulty breathing. You could die of cardiac or respiratory failure. Puts a whole new perspective on eating healthy, huh?

Your Turn: Do you have any cautionary poison tales to tell?

Also happening this week:


On Thursday and Friday, I’ll be at The Barn Door Book Loft Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Deadly Devotion. And please, tell your friends. 😉



photo credit for elderberry pic: Liamfm . via photopin cc