“No Antidote” for Strychnine

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Two Uses of Strychnine

Charge: “On page 138 of Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, Mrs. White says: ‘A branch was presented before me bearing large flat seeds. Upon it was written, Nux Vomica, strychnine. Beneath was written, No antidote.’ This was written in 1864….

“In ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association’ for Feb. 25, 1933, is a record of no less than ‘eleven cases of strychnine poisoning’ which were restored by the use of sodium amytal and kindred combinations.

“The medical world knew no antidote for strychnine poisoning in 1864, so Mrs. White saw in vision just what the doctors were teaching at that time. However, the doctors were more wise than Mrs. White, for they were teaching that there was no known antidote…. Was that vision from the Lord? or was it from her reading current medical works? Was God ignorant of the fact that sodium amytal was an effective antidote for strychnine poisoning in 18647”

Certain questions, which are not raised in this charge, almost clamor for answer. And, we think, the answer to them will suggest the answer to the whole charge.

1. If Mrs. White was beholden to the medical profession in 1864 for her views, as is implied in the charge that she borrowed her “no antidote” statement from them, then why did she take such militant issue with them in so many other matters? In our discussion of her health teachings in chapter 27 we shall discover that they are marked by a high disdain for currently held medical views. Yet in this matter of strychnine she is supposed to have looked into one of the books of the medical men of that day, picked out a lone statement from it, published it, and staked her reputation, at least in part, upon it. Here, indeed, is a most singular situation. Every presumption is against it.

2. Why would Mrs. White be soberly announcing, as a revelation that there was “no antidote” for strychnine if she had secured the information from a published medical work, and intended her


words to be understood in the same sense? Not only doctors and nurses but any intelligent layman knew that no antidote was known for an obvious case of strychnine poisoning.

3. “The medical world knew no antidote for strychnine poisoning in 1864.” But the physicians, following their Materia Medica, regularly administered strychnine to their patients in certain diseases. Did they willfully set out to murder their patients? Why did not the law place its hand upon them, for it was no secret that they administered strychnine?

Two Uses of Strychnine

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These questicns reveal that Mrs. White's words have been wrongly interpreted. The medical books of 1864 discussed two different uses of strychnine: (1) A therapeutic use, in small quantities, in such a medicine as nux vomica. (2) A suicidal—or accidental—use, in large quantities. For the latter, there was no known antidote. For the former, the doctors were not looking for an antidote. Instead they were using strychnine medicinally. Mrs. White is also discussing its medicinal use. She declared, and we quote the lines that follow immediately the three sentences cited in the charge:

“I was shown persons under the influence of this poison. It produced heat, and seemed to act particularly on the spinal column, but affected the whole system. When this is taken in the smallest quantities, it has its influence, which nothing can counteract. If taken immoderately, convulsions, paralysis, insanity, and death, are often the results. Many use this deadly evil in small quantities. But if they realized its influence, not one grain of it would be introduced into the system.

“When first taken, its influence may seem to be beneficial. It excites the nerves connected with the spinal column, but when the excitement passes away, it is followed by a sense of prostration and of chilliness the whole length of the spinal column, especially upon the head and back of the neck.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 138.

More might be quoted of her description of strychnine's steady, insidious, inroads upon the physical and nervous constitution. But enough is given to reveal that Mrs. White was taking most vigorous issue with the generally accepted medical view that


strychnine, medicinally administered, was beneficial. Which leads to the simple conclusion that her “no antidote” statement was intended to describe the baleful and inescapable results that must follow from the use of strychnine as it was then being used, dose after dose, medicinally.

We do not believe that twentieth-century medical men would challenge her statement on that. In fact, no present-day doctor would think of using strychnine as did the doctors in 1864. If he did so use it, he would soon lose his license.

No, Mrs. White was not guilty of setting forth, in 1864, as a revelation, so self-evident a fact as that there was “no antidote” for strychnine taken in large suicidal, or accidental, doses. She declared—what was not known to doctors in 1864—that even if strychnine was taken in “the smallest quantities” it was dangerous, and that there was nothing that would counteract its effects upon the whole system when thus allowed gradually to become a systemic poison. Science knows nothing to the contrary today.

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