Toxicology and Poisons

 Toxicology :

Etymology :

The word 'Toxicology'  is formed by union of two words - 'toxic' and 'logy'.
Toxin is a poisonous substance; and logy is the science/study of. Therefore, Toxicology is the science /study of poisonous substance.

Definitions :

1. The science of poisons, their source , chemical composition, action , tests and antidotes.
2. Toxicology deals with  diagnosis, symptoms and treatments of poisons and the methods of detecting them.
3. Toxicology is the branch of medical science which deals with poisons with reference to their sources, characters and properties, the lethal dose, the nature of fatal results, the remedial measures which should be employed to combat their actions or effects, the methods of their detection and estimation, and autopsy findings.

Branches of Toxicology :

1. Forensic Toxicology
2. Pharmacological Toxicology
3. Clinical Toxicology
4. Regulatory Toxicology.

Important Facts about Toxicology :

Father of Toxicology - Mathieu joseph Orfila (1787-1853)
Toxinology - The science dealing with toxins produced by living organisms, including plants, animals and microbes.

Poison :

Definition :

1. A substance which on digestion, inhalation, absorption, injection or development with in the body, in relatively small amounts, procedures injury to the body by its chemical actions.
2. Broadly speaking a poison may be defined as a substance of the nature of a drug which is administered in a way and in amount in which it is likely to be administered, will produce deleterious effects of a serious nature.
3. A poison is commonly defined as a substance which when administered, inhaled or swallowed is capable of acting deletirously on the body.

Classification of poison :

According to purpose of intention ( Medico-legal classification ) -











Suicidal poisons

Homicidal poisons

Cattle poisons

Stupefying agents

Food poisoning

Drug dependence


Opium,Arsenic, Potassium cyanide



Dhattura,Bhanga,Chloral hydrate



Ergot,Cotton root’s bark,Chitraka


According to Symptoms or Effect :

1. Corrosives
   a. Mineral acids - Sulphuric acid, Nitric acid etc
   b. Organic acids - Oxalic acid, Carbolic acid etc
   c. Vegetable acids - Hydrocyanic acid
    d. Concentrated alkalis - Caustic soda, potash etc.
2. Irritants
 a. Inorganic
    i. Non-metallic - Phosphorous, chlorine etc.
   ii. Metallic - Mercury, Tin, Copper etc.
 b. Organic
    i. Vegetable poisons - Castor seed, Croton seed etc.
    ii. Animal poisons - Snake,Venom,spider etc
 c. Mechanic - hair,diamond dust  
3. Neurotics :
 a. Cerebral 
   i. Somniferous - Opium
   ii. Inebriant - Alcohol
   iii. Deliriant - Dhatura
 b. Spinal - Nux vomica
 c. Peripheral - conium, curare
4. Cardiac - Digitalis, Aconite etc.
5. Asphyxiants Co, Co2, H2S etc.

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