I've got in-world poisons, often with real-world analogues (like belladonna) but in building the social structure of the back-stabbing nobility, I began looking at poison resistances and antidotes.

Basically, those who protect royalty also try and find a way to up their poison resistance, and during especially troubled times, put anti-toxins in their foods.

I already know about Mithridatism, "the practice of protecting oneself against a poison by gradually self-administering non-lethal amounts." But this is not what I am wanting to do.

I am looking to gradually dose the king with a general anti-toxin that's proof against most poisons. My question here is, are there real-life analogues that would be that broad? And if not, what combinations of things would be best?

EDIT: Don't worry about tech level--can be anything through to today's science--this is set in a Renaissance-type world, but I can adjust anything to fit because the world is pretty flexible and not entirely Renaissance, I just need some jumping off points to create what's needed.


Right now, I am finding that many things which wipe out poison aren't actually good to ingest on the regular (like charcoal)--and I am looking for things that will. Stuff that's close is ok, because I can use it as a starting point at least in building that bit of my world.


4 Answers 4


Cytochrome_P450s as a class are the enzymes which the body uses to break down most organic molecules - including drugs, toxins, ethanol and presumably organic poisons.


In the presence of lots of substrate the liver upregulates the given cytochrome p450 molecules needs. Chronic alcohol, for example, upregulates CYP2E1. Other cytochromes which handle other toxins can be upregulated by specific substrates (and inhibited by others). This is why you are not supposed to drink grapefruit juice with certain drugs - the juice inhibits the CYP and thus the metabolism of the drug.

So to get the CYPs good and induced you could drink inducers. I think fortified wine (of the Night Train variety) laced with plentiful capsaicin would be a fine start.

For heavy metal detox the body uses glutathione. It is not so straightforward to induce. It is interesting, however, that the mechanism of glutathione is its abundance of -SH sulfhydryl groups which bind lead, mercury and the like. Hair is also very rich in free sulfhydryl groups and hair is the main ingredient in the well known antipoison, bezoar.

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Bezoars are basically hairballs. This one ought to last you a couple of days.

So: to cover against arsenic, mercury and the like I recommend finely chopped bezoars (of the hairball variety!) to be added to the capsicum wine. Shake well. Serve cold.

One might object that no less an august personage that Ambroise Pare demonstrated bezoar to be ineffective by testing it on a cook condemned to die: instead of hanging the cook opted to eat a bezoar then poison, and died in agony. The poison chosen was lye. I do not think there is anything which will induce an immunity to lye.

  • $\begingroup$ HCl will neutralize it just peachy. You'd need to burp a bit. $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Jun 24, 2017 at 0:48

This seems possibly unlikely. One problem in answering your answer is an uncertainty in the technological level of your world. Traditional poisons are deadly herbs and mineral-derived chemicals. Unless your world possesses herbs or other planet materials that can act as counter-agents to a given class of toxic herbs, then this may be improbable.

However, this argument can be turned on its head. Since, it's your world, you are free to introduced varieties of poisonous plants that have other plants which naturally produce substances that either denature the poisons themselves or bind to the receptors in the intended victim's body to prevent the toxins from binding and causing the death of the person.

By and large, what you are contemplating to an anitoxin (or class of antitoxins) that work on equivalent lines to to a snake antivenom. While this requires post-medieval medical science and technology to facilitate and make practical (in the real world). There is no reason why in a constructed world, as argued above, there could be classes of substances (preferably botanical or even animal derived) where some are poisons and others are their equivalent antitoxins.

Plants have a long, protracted and extensive evolutionary history of developing defensive substances to ward insects, fungi, bacteria and herbivores. Effectively, these are poisons. Therefore, it is possible that the various predators on poisonous plants will develop on their counter-agents. This can include developing antitoxins or metabolic pathways to detoxify any poisons.

If you allow yourself the luxury of going one step further, some but not necessarily all** antitoxins may have a vaccine-like action on persons to whom they administered. This will have desired effect to facilitate a situation along the lines you are hoping for in your world.

**: You don't want every poison vaccinated against, this will dissipate dramatic tension. Also, some vaccines can wear off. So keeping up your doses of antitoxin may still be necessary. Again this is good for dramatic tension. We all know you don't want to make things too easy.

  • $\begingroup$ Yep, not every poison will be "vaccinated against." Any tech level is fine, within the parameters of what we currently know (not the future). $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to be most realistic answer. Biologically there are a multitude of poisons possible, which on earth makes anti-toxins generally not broadly usable. If all the poisons (known) on your world have one common origin, then it makes a lot of sense that some other animal (or plant) developed a broadband antitoxin against them. Whether you just eat that organism raw or preprocess the antitoxin is your tech-level ^^ $\endgroup$
    – Nicolai
    Jun 24, 2017 at 16:38

A good option would be probiotics which consume/neutralize some organic poisons that target higher life forms.

These might be able to adapt to individual stomachs if harvested from the bowels of other animals.

Otherwise, consider something that has an effect on the metabolization of a class of poisons. Look into epigenetic triggers or compounds like mercury that the body fails to eject. This compound could catalyze some metabolization in the liver, digestive tract, cells or the blood.

Cells also have some interesting ways of disposing of waste which you could interact with.


Problem is most poisons act on different areas of the body by causing death in different manners. Inhaled or ingested cyanide, used as a method of execution in gas chambers, almost instantly starves the body of energy by inhibiting the enzymes in mitochondria that make ATP. Intravenous injection of an unnaturally high concentration of potassium chloride, such as in the execution of prisoners in parts of the United States, quickly stops the heart by eliminating the cell potential necessary for muscle contraction. (Wikipedia).

As you can see they act on different systems and result in death but in different manners. Then there are long term poisonings things like lead, radiation, botulism or dioxin which can kill quick or slow depending on the dose and victim. Unless you are limiting your poisons to say plant based, no venom or bacteria, it creates an issue finding a single preventative. Before you can chose you will have to decide what type of "poisons" might be employed and how they would be introduced to the victim. You might identify the most common ones and have them dosed against it. Sneakier still would be a bi-toxin. One that is not lethal on its own, but when taken with a separate compound, the combo would be lethal. Attach one to a heavy metal like mercury that builds up on the body and the second could be introduced at any time in the future resulting in death.


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