A deadly secret lurks within our kitchens, medicine cabinets and gardens…
Digitalis purpurea. The common foxglove.Â Vision blurs as blood pressure drops precipitously.Â The heartbeat slows until, finally, it stops.
Atropa belladonna. Deadly nightshade. Eyes darken as strange shapes flutter across your vision. The heart begins to race and soon the entire body is overcome with convulsions.
Papaver somniferum. The opium poppy. Pupils constrict to a pinprick as the senses dull. Gradually, breathing shudders to a halt.
Scratch the surface of a coffee bean, a chilli flake or an apple seed and find a bevy of strange chemicals – biological weapons in a war raging unseen. Here, beetles, birds, bats and butterflies must navigate a minefield of specialised chemicals and biotoxins, each designed to maim and kill.
And yet these chemicals, evolved to repel marauding insects and animals, have now become an integral part of our everyday lives. Some we use to greet our days (caffeine) and titillate our tongues (capsaicin), others to bend our minds (psilocybin) and take away our pains (opioids).
Inspired by his father’s love of the natural world and his eventual spiral into the depths of addiction, evolutionary biologist Noah Whiteman explores how we came to use – and abuse – these chemicals. Delving into the mysterious origins of plant and fungal toxins, and their unique human history, Most Delicious Poison provides a kaleidoscopic tour of nature’s most delectable and dangerous poisons.