This week's Medical Mondays is both personal and random, so here we go.
A few weeks ago, I went to visit Slam Dunk's blog (such an interesting blog!) and read about these beads that, in fact, are actually quite toxic. Here's the post.
I think my insides might have actually flipped. Because only weeks before that post, I'd worn those very beads.
So of course I freaked out. And then, I researched.
Well, the inside part of the beads (the shell is thick and nontoxic) contains a compound called abrin, a highly toxic compound even more dangerous than ricin, the toxin found in castor beans and well known for its potential and past use as a poison and biological chemical offensive.
How toxic is abrin? The median lethal dose is 3 micrograms. (One microgram is one millionth of a gram). It's particularly dangerous for the laborers who drill the beads to make into decorative jewelry. A single prick of the finger from a contaminated needle can kill.
What's the name of the seeds/plant? It has so many names. Precatory bean, jequirity seed, love bean, rosary pea (commonly made into rosaries), Buddhist rosary bead, John Crow Bead, Indian Licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee, Jumbie Bead, crab's eye, Gunga, Ratti, bead vine, black-eyed Susan, prayer beads, weather plant, lucky bean, amongst many others.
The formal name for the plant is Abrus precatorus.
Where does it come from? It's native to Indonesia and is sometimes considered a weed.
What are the symptoms of poisoning? If inhaled in a large enough dose, the person would suffer coughing, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs, followed by death within 8 hours of exposure.
If ingested, the person would suffer vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, seizures, followed by multiple organ failure and death within a few days.
The good news is that if the person doesn't die after 3-5 days, they usually recover. Yay.
Are there antidotes? No. When someone is affected, they must be supported until they recover.
And this is a Big But. (har har). I did more research. The seed of Abrus precatorus has the hilum (where the seed attaches to the plant) located in the black-colored area. The beads on my necklace have the hilum on the red part. And, I think my beads are bigger than the Abrus species. So after all this fact-finding, it turns out that my beads are not in fact from Abrus precatorus, but instead the Ormosia species (either Monosperma or Nobilis), which is a plant that grows in the Caribbean and tropical Americas.
Hooray ! My necklace wasn't so bad after all! Or so I thought. My happiness lasted all of two seconds, because it turns out that Ormosia seeds are toxic too.
The bad news is, I can't find out details on the nature of the Ormosia toxin. I'm certainly never going to wear this necklace again.
The good news? I hope this experience was possible fodder for the upcoming poisonings in your future novels!
If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer. This is for fictional scenarios, only. Please check out the boring but necessary disclaimer on my sidebar ---> Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary. :)