I came to this work having read another book by Wade Davies - his wonderful biography of Richard Evans Schultz, 'One River'. Schultz was in the heroic tradition of botanical exploration, particularly his ethno-botanical work on psychoactive plant drug use amongst the tribes of the upper Amazon. One of the great botanical scientists of any era. So how does this work of Davies stand up to scientific scrutiny? Wade sent his samples for analysis of Tetrodotoxin content and the result was published as a letter in the Journal Toxicon (Toxicon Volume 24, Issue 8, 1986, Pages 747-749. Tetrodotoxin and the Haitian zombie Takeshi Yasumotoa, C.Y. Kaob a Faculty of Agriculture, Tohoku University Sendai, Japan b Department of Pharmacology, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, U.S.A..) The authors' conclusion was as follows "As is evident from the above, there is, at best, only insigniﬁcant traces of tetrodotoxin in the samples of `zombie potions' which were supplied for analysis by Davis. There is a good reason for the virtual absence of tetrodotoxin, if indeed any had been present initially. Both samples were extremely alkaline; even the extract in 0.1% acid alcohol had a pl-I of 10. A slurry of a portion of another sample tested in Brooklyn in January l985 gave a pH of 12. From extant knowledge of the chemical properties of tetrodotoxin (Tsuox er al., 1964; Most-nan et al., 1964; Goro et al., 1965), in such alkaline environments tetrodotoxin would have been decomposed irreversibly into pharmacologically inactive products. From these results it can be concluded that the widely circulated claim in the lay press to the effect that tetrodotoxin is the causal agent in the initial zombiﬁcation process is without factual foundation. Moreover, it can be predicted safely that as long as `zombie potions' are made the way they are, with the inclusion of material that can impart the extreme alkalinity, no active tetrodotoxin could be present to produce any signiﬁcant biological effects." The same conclusion was reached in an excellent review article of Wade's claims published in Science by William Booth (Science 1988; vol 240; pp 274-277) entitled "Voodoo Science" which just about summarizes the view of this work held by Wades's critics and by me.
The works of Carlos Castaneda come to mind. A rattling good yarn; just bear in mind its a yarn which Davies paid his informants many hundreds of dollars to obtain.
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