Monday, October 25, 2010

Medical Mondays: The Bezoar


Anyone who's read the Harry Potter series knows that Snape grilled Harry about what a bezoar was. The bezoar later saved Ron from certain death in the Half-Blood Prince.

In medical terms, a bezoar is a mass trapped in the digestive system. In humans, they can be made of anything: fruit pits, bubblegum, stones, a conglomerate of pills...and even hair.

Yes, it's true. Humans AND cats can get hair balls.

Well, long ago people used to think that stone bezoars found in the stomach of goat and sheep were antidotes for poison. In 1575, a clever fellow names Ambroise Paré didn't believe the hype. So he took a servant who had been caught stealing silver and poisoned him. Did the bezoar work?

Uh, no. The servant apparently died in agony hours later.

Three cheers for the scientific method!

Three boos for torturous human experimentation!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice! (See sidebar disclaimer)

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57 comments:

Christine Danek said...

This is the strangest day ever. I just did a post on research and how I'm researching some medical questions for my WiP. Very strange. I may be emailing you soon. I have to believe in signs, right?
Thanks.

Renae said...

I will never think of a bezoar the same again. As usual this has been an eye opener. Thanks Lydia!

Jennifer Shirk said...

"Three cheers for the scientific method!
Three boos for torturous human experimentation!"

LOL!! That's funny. Although maybe not so funny for the poor servant.

Misha said...

Lol very clever doctor.

:-)

lbdiamond said...

Well, that's what you get for stealing! ;)

Bezoars gross me out.

Carol Kilgore said...

This is a new one for me. Now to figure out how to use it someplace :)

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm seriously starting to rethink all that gum I swallowed as a kid. Yikes!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm with Jaydee Morgan. Yikes!

I'll have to tell my kids this one before I let them have gum. :)

Linda Kage said...

I have a bezoar stuck inside me?!?! I'm not so sure what to think about that.

I love this post. I didn't know any of that stuff.

Saumya said...

Oooh, I've never heard of this. So interesting....and gross haha.

Slamdunk said...

Now that is a powerful way to attach a word's meaning to a story. I won't be forgetting Mr. Pare anytime soon.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Eeeks! Holy Hairballs!
As always, this was fascinating, Lydia. I love this series.

Jennee said...

I think I have a hair ball now.

Deb Salisbury said...

Yuck! I'd wondered why bezoars were supposed to counter poison. I *think* it's nice to know they didn't work. Not so good to know I could get one! ;-)

For once I'm not applauding the scientific method ... but in 1575 the normal punishment might have been just as bad.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Huh! Why don't I remember that part. I might have to watch Harry Potter this week now,lol!

Melissa said...

Oh scientific method..... way to both be effective and cruel. Or maybe it's just the people using the method (which is more likely because I don't think a method can be generically bad).

That's weird that people can get hair balls, but when you think about it it isn't really all that strange.

I guess it's a good thing that the fantasy element to the HP series didn't actually make me think that a bezoar could cure poisons. That could've been awkward.

I <3 medical mondays.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds disgusting!

Erin Cole said...

Sigh of relief that I live in modern medical times! Interesting research, thanks Lydia.

Colene Murphy said...

EWE. Kinda bummed it's not a real thing. HP how could you lie to me?!(joking..)

And wow, harsh punishment for stealing. Dang. The way you wrote it "uh no" made me laugh until I read that he died in horrible pain. Yuck

Krispy said...

Well, that's one way to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Thanks for another enlightening post.

MT said...

Bezoar - my new word for the day (I confess, I didn't read book 6). Plus, I thought hair/gum/pit balls were a myth, but now I've more in common with cats than I realized!

LTM said...

omg--lol! "Humans also get hair balls" = Ewww!!! :D

but this is actually unexpectedly helpful as there's a possible poisoning in my WIP3...

Thanks for the insights~ <3

Lisa_Gibson said...

My boss (a veterinarian) has a giant bezoar on his desk. It's from a cow. It's like a big ol' hair rock. Totally weird but completely interesting at the same time. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Quinn said...

I didn't know anything about bezoars outside of Harry Potter. This was really interesting to read.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Good post Lydia. I first came across bezoars in Harry Potter books. After that have never heard of them again.

notesfromnadir said...

Thanks for this as I learned a new word, haven't read the Harry Potter books, & how the digestive system can get overtaxed w/ some weird combinations.

Kraxpelax said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RaShelle said...

LOL - How fun and gross. I had no idea. =D

Elle Strauss said...

Once again, I had no idea. Thanks!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Did you ever hear about the teenage girl who had a hairball the same shape as her stomach? They had to do surgery to get it out. I guess she'd had the bad habit of eating her hair for years. Uggh.

And is this why parents tell their children not to swallow their gum? :) I always thought it would just come out the other end, but maybe there is a risk of getting a bezoar? Frightening.

Thanks for yet another amazing post! :)

Amy

Indigo said...

Having four inside cats and finding hair balls all the time, the mere thought of bezoars grosses me out. Interesting post none the less. (Hugs)Indigo

Lydia Kang said...

I don't think swallowing a single piece (or pieces) of gum will give you a bezoar. Most of the time it just passes right on through with no problem.

Oh, and if you want to see a hair bezoar (trichobezoar) the size and shape of stomach, just google image it.

I'll guarantee it'll jump start your diet because you'll be so grossed out that your appetite will go out the window for hours.

Len said...

Oh wow this is new to me, Lydia. Thanks for sharing! I can't believe I may have a bezoar in my stomach?????

Emy Shin (Sandy) said...

Oh, the poor servant!

Although half of me wishes that he'd been cured, just so I can maintain some "magic" about the event in HP. :)

The Red Angel said...

I am really enjoying your Medical Mondays more and more with each passing week (or Monday, I shoud say). So very interesting. :)

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Karen Lange said...

You know, I learn something new every Monday when I stop here...:) Thanks for the info, Lydia!

Hanny said...

I love your blog!!

Phoenix said...

Yikes. Sucks to be servants of scientists, eh?

Three boos for torturous human experimentation, indeed! Yeesh.

Susan Fields said...

Wow - I guess that's one way to test out a theory, huh? A fascinating post, as always - thanks, Lydia!

The Words Crafter said...

I'm so GLAD we don't live in times where someone with a higher social rank can just take you out and attempt murder-just to prove a point! Wow! With a little bit of 'ewww', too. Especially now that I know what it's made of....

Vicki Rocho said...

Methinks that guy was a bit over-confident. hahahaha...poor servant!

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Amie Kaufman said...

Oh my goodness, when we were at school we used to say if you swallowed chewing gum it'd get caught inside of you and you'd die horribly, but a bezoar? Eep.

Paul C said...

Bezoar....your tantalyzing and disgusting terms provide so much fodder for narrative angles....A wonderful series, Lydia!

Kelly said...

Yikes, hair balls in the stomach!

E.J. Wesley said...

GROSS ... I love it! :) I wonder if they turned to Crookshanks for the bezoars?

Heather said...

Wow, that's one way to test a theory! Great story, I had no idea that's what a bezoar was. That's only part of why I love your posts, I learn so much!

Lynn said...

I think I'm okay with my hairballs where they are. I'd hate to start coughing up in some corner somewhere!! Interesting as always, Lydia!

Talli Roland said...

EW! Well, this I never knew, and I'm not sure I can say life is better now that I do! :) It is interesting, though.

Munk said...

"Aaackk!"... Bill the Cat.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Ew. Yuck. Ack!

Shannon said...

This is one of my favorite Monday Medical posts. Love how you tied it in with literature and taught me something. Crafty. =)

Donna Hole said...

LOL. OK, so maybe JK did some research too for her novels . .

This was cool. But ya know, way back before the scientific age, they had to do SOMETHING to keep the slave population down. Medical research isn't the worst footnote a guy could leave for posterity :)

........dhole

Jai Joshi said...

As soon as I saw the word Bezoar I was waving my hand in the air like Hermione saying "Oh! Oh! Me! Me! Ask me!"

Great post. Horrible story about the doctor poisoning that servant. Medical history is grissly sometimes.

Jai

Ishta Mercurio said...

I don't even want to think about what a human would have to do to get a hairball.

And now I`m thinking about it.

Ew.

Great blog!

Theresa Milstein said...

Harry Potter and Medical Mondays? Perfect! I tell everyone about Medical Mondays.

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Alesa Warcan said...

Sorry, I'm late, I just got back from holiday. : j

On the subject of bezoars... They're further characterized by type: hairballs are called trichobezoars. Yes, I have a cat... That's why that's the only kind whose name I can remember. : p

It's interesting how varied the cures for bezoars are, they range surgery to laxatives. Some kinds, as I recall can be dissolved inside the body by ingestion of mildly acidic liquids. Fun stuff.

 
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