The dose makes the poison, the yoga mat, and the bread.


Oh my god…I let children play with chemicals. Dangerous chemicals that are used in concrete and the food we eat.

I often wonder why luminaries in the field of botany chose new names for themselves. Carl von Linne chose Linnaeus. It seems to me if he really wanted to support his system of binomial nomenclature, he should have called himself Linne voncarlus. Or something like that. Today, scientists seem to go by three names, like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the late Stephen Jay Gould. Which also seems a bit pretentious, until you mention Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. According to lore, he was a lot pretentious–I think the name doomed him. So he went by the name Paracelsus.

Paracelsus (1493-1591) was a jack of all trades, including botanist. However, Paracelsus has a warm place in my heart for coining the phrase ‘The dose makes the poison.’ Paracelsus felt that lecturing should occur in German, as opposed to Latin, to allow information to get to all people. At some point, I need to figure out if he wrote this in Latin, the lingua franca of the day (Dosis sola facit venenum) or in German (Die Dosis macht das Gift). I suspect if he were alive today, he would still be wondering why “the high colleges managed to produce so many high asses.”

Which brings me to asses–like Food Babe. And John Stewart, who made one of himself, I am sad to say. And yoga asses. And yoga mats. And back to Paracelsus, and the dose makes the poison.

Recently, there was much to do about nothing regarding a chemical, azodicarbonamide, that occurs in both bread and yoga mats. Crazy, huh? Until you realize that the dreaded chemical calcium carbonate does all of these things and more. It is used as building materials (limestone, paints, mortar, concrete), medicine (antacid and dietary supplement–think Tums!), food (leavening agent and is acceptable in organic food), toothpaste (mild abrasive), agriculture (in gardens to lime soil and in animal feed), and as a paper whitener. It’s even used in waste water treatment.

I guess I could go all histrionic and say “OH MY GOD! They use it to neutralize acids and make yoga mats.” They also use it in schools. It’s called chalk. And we could probably say the same thing about water, which is also used in all of the above and more. It too is terribly dangerous stuff: If you stick your head in a bucket of it, you’ll die. How scary is that? Not, because you now realize that I am being sarcastic, and I didn’t even need to use a sarcastic font!


Homemade bread: Flour, water, yeast, salt. No preservatives. But since it was eaten that night, they weren’t needed.

The questions that weren’t asked with the yoga mat- bread fiasco, that need to be asked, are: Does the compound in question need to be there? I realize in a culture of more, it is hard to sell less…but bread is, in its purest form, the recipe of less: Flour, water, salt, and added yeast. Possibly even calcium carbonate to add calcium. And if you buy it in the store, in a plastic bag in the bread aisle, it will have something as a preservative. The question comes down to dose, because it is the dose that makes the poison. And back to Paracelsus.

Paracelsus said “Knowledge is experience.” Our public knowledge of chemistry is so poor, it informs our experience that this compound must be bad. Even when it may not be.

Experience is knowledge, or, at least, it can be, if you use it to learn. Maybe in the future, the promoters of hysteria (aka, The Media) will take the time to educate as opposed to inflame. Schlocky journalism (oh yeah, Jon Stewart, I can so out-Yiddish you! You have some chutzpah promulgating that chazarei!) won out over thoughtfulness. Maybe the next time something like this happens, and it will, experience will be knowledge, too, and thoughtfulness and education will win the day.


About impbot

Plant pathologist or really bad gardener.

Posted on March 20, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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