In praise of poison

In praise of poison

 It appears that a substance or pattern of energy may be both good and bad for us, wearing either the hero’s white Stetson or the villain’s black derby, depending upon dose and circumstance.

It appears that a substance or pattern of energy may be both good and bad for us, wearing either the hero’s white Stetson or the villain’s black derby, depending upon dose and circumstance.

by Dr. Steven Goldsmith —

We all know that too much of a good thing is bad for you — food, water, oxygen, exercise or sleep. Too much vitamin A can swell the brain. Too much fluoride can damage teeth. But did you know that the converse is also true? That is, a little of what is bad for you can be good for you.

Let us look at hydrogen cyanide, which is among the deadliest of compounds. And yet, in 1900 John Clarke, a London physician, reported that a miniscule dose of it cured a three-year-old boy of epileptic seizures. What is especially curious about this case is that larger doses of hydrogen cyanide cause convulsions in those who ingest it. Thus it cured what it causes. (Do not even think of trying this at home.)

Was this case merely a singular anomaly of nature? On the contrary, for an enormous number of well-documented observations demonstrate this phenomenon. For instance, in 2004, researchers from the Philadelphia VA Medical Center (Linda Stern, et al.) and Duke University (W. Yancy, et al.) reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that a high-fat diet lowers triglycerides and raises HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood. In short, fat reduces fat. A practical application of this pattern can be seen in the Atkins diet.

That same year, as further evidence of nature’s contrarianism, Tom Hei and Vladimir Ivanov reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that although the deadly poison arsenic causes cancer, low doses of it killed malignant melanoma cells while sparing normal cells. Along these lines, a 2010 article in the journal Blood by Bayard Powell of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center stated that low doses of arsenic enhanced the ability of leukemia patients to achieve remission.

In an article published in 1943, two researchers at the University of Idaho’s School of Forestry coined the word “hormesis” to designate this phenomenon that they also witnessed, this time in the ability of red cedar tree extract to inhibit metabolism of the brown rot fungus at higher doses but stimulate it at lower doses. The term has stuck.

How common is hormesis, this hair-of-the-dog response by living organisms to substances that seem inimical? Very, according to Edward Calabrese, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has cited about 1,000 published scientific articles which demonstrate that a wide variety of ordinarily toxic chemicals and radiation (e.g., dioxin, mercury, crude oil, gamma rays) can harm or inhibit organisms at larger doses but benefit or stimulate them at lower doses.

In fact, in 1994 the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation published a review of 405 papers documenting the beneficial effects of low doses of ionizing radiation upon cell cultures, bacteria, plants and animals.

Such results evoke disbelief in many people. This is an understandable reaction because nature has hard-wired our minds to consider things as either good or bad. Although our dichotomization of the world into these two camps helped our ancestors survive in the wild as they sought food (the good) and evaded predators (the bad), it is apparently not a reflection of reality. It appears that a substance or pattern of energy may be both good and bad for us, wearing either the hero’s white Stetson or the villain’s black derby, depending upon dose and circumstance.

So it behooves scientists to investigate further this dual nature of our material reality. And we need to consider the possibility that the world differs radically from our habitual perceptions of it. If we keep an open mind about what it means for something to be good or bad, we may discover surprising facts with enormous implications for our environment and our health.

And who knows? Devotees of nachos, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts®, tobacco and tequila can hope for vindication, claiming they were right all along.

 

Steven Goldsmith is a graduate from the Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons and author of The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness. He lives in Portland, Ore., where he maintains a psychiatric practice specializing in helping people recover from illness through natural means.

Reprinted from the AzNetNews archives..

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