Many plants are toxic. It is no accident that the etymological origin of the word toxic stems directly from the Greek word to^lxov (toxikon), for "bow," referring to the use of arrow poisons.
Medicinal plants are useful in curing or alleviating man's illnesses because they are toxic. The popular interpretation tends to accept the term toxic as implying poisoning with fatal results. Yet, as Paracelsus wrote in the sixteenth century: "In all things there is a poison, and there is nothing without a poison. It depends only upon the dose whether something is poison or not."
The difference among a poison, a medicine, and a narcotic is only one of dosage. Digitalis, for example, in proper doses represents one of our most efficacious and widely prescribed cardiac medicines, yet in higher doses it is a deadly poison.
We all realize the meaning of the term intoxication, but it is popularly applied primarily to the toxic effects from overindulgence in alcohol. In reality, however, any toxic substance may intoxicate. Webster defines toxic as "Of, pertaining to, or caused by poison." It might be more specific to state that a toxic substance is a plant or animal substance or chemical ingested for other than purely nutritional purposes and which has a noticeable biodynamic effect on the body. We realize\ that this is a broad definition—a definition would include such constituents as caffeine: wfesm employed in its usual form as a stimulant, caff erne does not evoke truly toxic symptoms, but in high doses it is a very definite and dangerous poison
Hallucinogens must be classed as toxic. They induce unmistakable intoxications. They are like wise, in the broad sense of the term, narcotics The term narcotic, coming from the Greek vagxovv (.narkoyn), to benumb, etymologically refers to a substance that, however stimulating it may be in one or more phases of its activity, terminates its effects with a depressive state on the central nervous system. Under this broad definition, alcohol and tobacco are narcotics. The stimulants such as caffeine do not fall under the definition of narcotic, since in normal doses, they do not induce a terminal depression, though they are psychoactive. English has no term that, like the German Genufimittel ("medium of enjoyment"), includes both narcotics and stimulants.
Datura has long been connected to the worship of Shiva, the Indian god associated with the creative and destructive aspects of the universe. In this extraordinary bronze sculpture from Southeast India of the eleventh or twelfth century, Shiva dances the Anandatan dava, the seventh and last of his dances, which combines all inflections of his character. Under his left foot, Shiva crushes the demon Apasmara-purusa, who is the personification of ignorance. In Shiva's upper right hand, he holds a tiny drum that symbolizes Time by the rhythm of his cosmic dance in the field of Life and Creation. His lower right hand is in the abhaya-mudra, expressing Shiva's quality of safeguarding the universe. In his upper left hand, he holds a flame that burns the veil of illusion. His lower left hand is held in the gajahasta and points to his raised left foot, which is free in space and symbolizes spiritual liberation. Shiva's hair is bound with a band, and two serpents hold a skull as a central ornament, thus showing Shiva's destructive aspects of Time and Death. On the right is a Datura flower. Gar ■ lands of Datura blossoms are woven among the locks of his whirling hair.
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