POISON HEMLOCK: The death of a philosopher
Poison hemlock is a relative of Queen Anne’s Lace (they’re both members of the parsley family) appears innocuous (it can be identified by its hollow purple stained stem) but is proof that looks can be deceiving.
“Only a very small quantity of this highly poisonous plant can cause death,” the Aububon Wildflower Field Guide notes.
That’s because all parts of the plant contain poison alkaloids.
And it kills in a quietly horrible manner: It causes paralysis, with paralysis of the respiratory system the usual cause of death.
Meanwhile, the victim can’t move but is aware of what is happening as the mind in unaffected until death is imminent.
It is so toxic that in Scotland it is known as deid (cq) man’s oatmeal.
Hemlock’s most famous victim was the Greek philosopher Socrates who in 399 BC was found guilty of heresy in a trail in Athens.
His sentence was death by hemlock and he had to drink the poison by his own han