Who Discovered Ergot Poisoning?


In 1976 Linnda Caporael offered the first evidence that the Salem witch trials followed an outbreak of rye ergot. Ergot is a fungus blight that forms hallucinogenic drugs in bread. Its victims can appear bewitched when they’re actually stoned. Ergot thrives in a cold winter followed by a wet spring.

Where does ergot poisoning come from?

Ergotism is a form of poisoning from ingesting grains, typically rye, that have been infected by the ascomycete fungus Claviceps purpurea. The infection replaces individual grains with dark, hard ergots (see image 2A) that get mixed in to the healthy grain during harvest and milling.

How common is ergot poisoning?

Ergotism is rare in human populations but most likely is underdiagnosed in animals. The most logical approach to managing ergotism is the removal of animals from the source of ergopeptine alkaloids.

Does ergotism still exist?

In less wealthy countries, ergotism still occurs; an outbreak in Ethiopia occurred in mid-2001 from contaminated barley. Whenever there is a combination of moist weather, cool temperatures, delayed harvest in lowland crops and rye consumption, an outbreak is possible.

What happens if you eat ergot?

There is a high risk of poisoning, and it can be fatal. Early symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and weakness, numbness, itching, and rapid or slow heartbeat. Ergot poisoning can progress to gangrene, vision problems, confusion, spasms, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death.

Is there a cure for ergot poisoning?

There is no antidote, so treatment involves removing the animals from the source of the ergot and alleviating the symptoms. If found early enough and before severe clinical signs develop, animals can recover, but once gangrene has started, there is little treatment.

Why is ergotism called St Anthony’s fire?

The frequent epidemics of ergotism were called Holy Fire or st-Antony’s Fire in the Middle Ages, because of the burning sensations resulting in gangrene of limbs. It was caused by eating rye bread contaminated with the fungus Claviceps purpurea.

Why does ergot cause gangrene?

This type of ergotism causes gangrene to occur by constricting the blood vessels leading to the extremities. Because of the decrease in blood flow, infections occur in the extremities, accompanied by burning pain. Once gangrene has occurred, the fingers, toes, etc.

What really caused the Salem witch trials?

The Salem witch trials and executions came about as the result of a combination of church politics, family feuds, and hysterical children, all of which unfolded in a vacuum of political authority.

What is Salem called now?

The Salem Witch Trials took place in a settlement within the Massachusetts Bay Colony named Salem which, at the time of the trials in 1692, consisted of two sections: Salem town, which is now modern-day Salem, and Salem Village, which is now modern-day Danvers.

Is ergot a drug?

Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine belong to the group of medicines known as ergot alkaloids. They are used to treat severe, throbbing headaches, such as migraine and cluster headaches. Dihydroergotamine and ergotamine are not ordinary pain relievers.


How is ergot used today?

Despite serious safety concerns, ergot has been used as medicine. Women use it to treat excessive bleeding during menstrual periods, at the start of menopause, and before and after miscarriage. They also use ergot after childbirth to expel the placenta and contract the uterus.

Why does ergot grow on rye?

Ergot, fungal disease of cereal grasses, especially rye, caused by species of the ascomycete fungus Claviceps. The disease decreases the production of viable grains by infected plants and can contaminate harvests. Ergot is commonly associated with rye infected by C.

What drug causes St Anthony’s fire?

caused by ergot alkaloids

Claviceps purpurea, the cause of ergotism (also known as St. Anthony’s fire), a disease that was prevalent in northern Europe in the Middle Ages, particularly in regions of high rye-bread consumption.

What caused Anthony’s sickness?

The madness was quickly diagnosed. They were suffering from St Anthony’s Fire, a dreaded illness that was common in the Middle Ages. The cause was poisoning from a fungus (ergot) that grows on rye grass. The fungus contaminated the rye flour used in making bread.

Can you get high eating moldy rye bread?

4. Rye Bread. Well, moldy rye bread. One of the most common grain fungi is called ergot, and it contains a chemical called ergotamine, which is used to make lysergic acid–not LSD itself, but one of the precursor chemicals, which can have similarly trippy effects.

Is ergot a hallucinogen?

Ergot: The Psychoactive Fungus that Changed History

Since humans first began cultivating cereal grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and oats, they have been susceptible to ergot (Claviceps purpurea) poisoning. This fungus has devastated crops and European societies for many centuries.

What does ergot do to animals?

All animals are susceptible to ergot but cattle are often most affected. The fungus produces toxic compounds called ergot alkaloids which are vaso-active causing severe vasoconstriction of small arteries. The extremities of cattle are most often affected causing loss of the tips of ears and tail.

Can ergot cause abortion?

Ergot alkaloid poisoning causes many symptoms including fatigue, burning sensations, muscle spasms, convulsions, and numbness of extremities. In extreme cases, gangrene ensues, leading to loss of extremities, hallucinations, and abortion.

How can Ergot poisoning be prevented?

Prevention and Control of Ergot Poisoning

Prevention is based on feeding feed and forage that are free of ergot. For pastures, graze the infected fields before seed heads begin to flower. The ergot is contained in the ovary of the flower. Commercially prepared feeds will rarely contain ergot.

What causes ergot in rye?

Ergot is a fungal disease caused by fungi of the genus Claviceps. Species in this genus are unique in that they only infect ovaries of the host plants; no other part of the plant is infected. There are approximately 40 species of Claviceps with C.

What causes ergot?

Ergot is a plant disease caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which infects the developing grains of cereals and grasses.