Curare – A Wonder Substance Which Can Both Kill And Save Lives

Another name for curare is ‘flying death’ and it was used by the Indians of South America. They used it to tip their darts for killing animals. The slightest scratch from these poisoned darts would kill the animal in minutes. It can kill a bird in seconds, a man in 5 minutes and a big ox in less than two 30 minutes. To date, no wholly reliable antidote has been found for curare.

The effects pf curare interested the European explorers of the 16th century. They returned home to tell their countrymen of its lethal properties. Several scientists began to be interested in this wonder bark. However they could not make such headway, as the forests of the Amazon Basin were so inaccessible and dangerous.

It was only in the mind- 19th century that they could investigate this poison. By 1847 scientist had worked out the way curare worked. They also successfully experimented on keeping a victim of curare poisoning alive by artificial respiration. However they had still not been able to get the active ingredient of curare. Nor did they know the plant from which this poison was obtained.

It was in 1935 that an English doctor, Harold King, finally identified the main paralyzing agent in curare. Fortunately the same year also saw the identification of the plant by the German botanist, Guillermo G.Klug. This led to the production of standard strength curare by the drug companies. It is one of the most powerful drugs in medicinal science.

Curare was first used as a relaxant in the treatment of paralysis. It was administered for the first time as an anesthetic during a surgery by Dr. Harold Griffith in 1942 in Montreal.

These days, curare is used frequently as a muscle relaxant during surgery. It is better than many other anesthetics as the patient requires a very little amount and the recovery from its effects are even more rapid.

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