Chapter 12. Molecules of Witchcraft

What are the Molecules of Witchcraft?

Over the course many decades, chemists have unveiled what molecules have been associated with infamous witch hunts. Most of these molecules are toxic compounds, a specific alkaloid, and even a cardiac glycoside. Too much of any of these molecules can take a physiological effect on any human being who has taken them. A few of the effects of a cardiac glycoside are a reduced heart rate, a regularized heart rhythm, and a strengthened heartbeat. Out of all three molecules listed, alkaloids have the most physiological effect; they mostly effect the central nervous system and are mostly generally toxic. So basically saying that too much of any of these molecules can cause someone to be a little crazy-like. A lot of the alkaloids come from the nightshade family; a very toxic family.

Chemistry of the Molecules of Witchcraft

The group of molecules associated with witchcraft were responsible for the many hangings of men, women, and children all throughout Europe. These molecules aren’t responsible for the persecution but for the discrimination of the “witches”. Before witchcraft became a problem, it was accepted in society unless it caused harm. When it did become a problem, the main people that were accused were women who were herbalists that were skilled in the use of the local plants to cure diseases and provide pain relief. When the witch hunts started, it was already too late for those women. The cardiac glycosides were responsible for the reduced heart rate and the strengthened heartbeat. So when the “witches” were interrogated, the glycosides kicked in, making them look guilty. Another group of compounds that were around during the witch hunts were alkaloids. Most of the poisonous alkaloids were responsible for the many deaths that occurred. Most of the from the nightshade family. The first plant was the mandrake plant, Mandragora officinarum, was, in ancient times, used to restore sexual vitality; this would explain why women were said to have used the extract of this plant to venture on their sexual innuendos when on their broomsticks. Along with the mandrake plant, deadly nightshade and henbane have one alkaloid, hyoscyamine, in common. This specific alkaloid was associated with the delirium that many of the accused witches had experienced. Due to this in their system at the time of interrogation, many women confessed because that was believed to be true to them.

Major Points of Historical Impact and the Modern World

The impact these molecules have had, has changed history as we know it. If it wasn’t due to these molecules we wouldn’t have some anesthetics we have now. Also most of the molecules are still in use today. they can be either found in the pain medications to hospital surgical rooms. Also most of the alkaloid molecules are used quite a lot, but some have yet to be discovered due to many forest being chopped down or burned. All in all, if it wasn’t for the discovery of alkaloids and the other molecules during that time period, we may would have never known why the so-called witches confessed or have the medicines we do have today.

My Opinion

I feel that these molecules helped grasp one of the major events in history. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have been able to understand the witch hunts and possibly never had discovered the positive effects of the molecules on the modern world. Most of these molecules are present in the modern world and I feel like they should grow more prominent over time.

Author’s Argument

To be completely honest, the author kind of made sense. I feel like Le Couteur and Burreson made a plausible argument with talking about how each molecule could’ve caused one of the many symptoms the witches had experienced. The one thing they could have done better was tie it more into the history. I felt like the chapter was separated into history then just chemistry. There was no transition into the chemistry; it was just there.

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One thought on “Chapter 12. Molecules of Witchcraft

  1. Despite yours and the authors’s logic, I do not believe the “Molecules of Witchcraft” were as “history-changing” as you have argued. Even without the hallucinogens that caused many witches to confess to “flying,” the witch trials would still had seen just as many executions and so forth. Many if not all of the accusations formed from greed. hatred, or envy. The best example of this would be the Salem Witch Trials.

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