Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Ipecac sounds like a name in one of the "primitive societies" books I devoured as a child.

"Young Ipecac followed his father and the other men on this, his first hunt. He was proud of the handsome stone ax his grandfather had helped him make, and of the fine throwing stick his mother, Ipecacuana, had fashioned from the rib bone of an aurochs."

But that isn't what ipecac is. Us older folks know that all parents used to be advised to keep a bottle of ipecac on hand to induce vomiting, in case one (or, I suppose, more) of our children ingested poison.

But that was back in the day. Parents are no longer advised by physicians to automatically induce vomiting in case of poison. We are instead advised to call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 and consult with them.

It turns out that ipecac, while it did, indeed, induce vomiting, had no effect on the results of the poisoning and often causes problems of its own. You can read the details at the Poison Center Website.

But now let's suppose we have a character with a weak heart. We slip poison into his food or drink and promise to give him ipecac (he doesn't know it's being discouraged) if he'll confess in writing to something or other. He does it, we hand over the bottle, having carefully wiped it first, of course. He drinks it, vomits violently and repeatedly, has a heart attack, and dies.

Messy, but effective. The cops believe he tried to kill himself, then had second thoughts, but died of the results of ipecac.

Naturally, we're caught, because the cop or amateur sleuth is just too darned clever for us. Curses! Foiled!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

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