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MCDB 3700 Poisons in Cell Biology and Society (Su) - Rare and Distinctive Collections Visit

A guide to view some historical documents related to poisons and their relationship with society.

Medical Texts

This section provides a few examples of traditional medical texts that include poison remedies. Both items date from the 1800s in the U.S., however, one is a published book and the other is a handwritten list of medical treatments.

Family Medical Guides

Daniel H. Whitney, The Family Physician and Guide to Health (Penn-Yan, NY, 1833).

This book details hundreds of known diseases, poisons, other ailments, and their possible cures. To understand how people defined and classified poisons in the 1800s, see Whitney's general definition in the glossary:

The Family Physician includes potential treatments for hemotoxins (in this case from rattlesnakes and other vipers):

A Handwritten Remedy Book

Mary Flower's Book of Remedies is a manuscript (handwritten item) from New York documenting a variety of aliments and their remedies from around 1850. The original, embedded below, is handwritten, so it can be very hard to read! Below the manuscript you will find transcriptions of relevant remedies for poisons (or, in the final case, a use of a poison in another remedy).

  • Rattlesnake bite remedy, p. 55 (remedy 147)
  • To Kill Arsenic Poison, p. 66 (remedy 186)
  • Katharion (p. 114)

Rattlesnake bite (p. 55, no. 147)
"Take rattle snake master roots and tops, bruise and apply to wound. If the patient bloats, steep the roots in Milk and water and drink freely."

To Kill Arsenic Poison (p. 66, no. 186)
"Take 15 grains of mettarter heaping teaspoonfull of salt."

  • Librarian note: I can't find a reference to mettarter or what it is. However, old remedies often used "tartar" in some capacity, likely either potassium bitartrate or tartaric acid.

Katharion (p. 114)
"To restore hair in the head; also to give gloss and beauty, take 1 pint Alcohol, 1 oz. Cantharides Spirits, 4 oz. Castor Oil, 1/2 oz. Bergamot"


Rare and Distinctive Collections


Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B



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