I've heard in school of the story of a king, who used to take small amounts of conium. When someone tried to poison him he was immune to that poison.

Is that even remotely possible ?


1 Answer 1


Straight Dope has an article on this practice (exposing yourself to incrementally greater doses of poison; called mithridatization, after King Mithridates VI of Pontus, who reputedly pursued such a regimen as per Roman writer Pliny).

The article confirms the known case of arsenic mithridatization in Austria, as well as the fact that you can mithridatize yourself to an extent against poison ivy reaction

One of the earliest scientific mentions I was able to find is "PROFESSOR VON BEHRING'S TREATMENT OF TUBERCULOSIS" published in British medical journal, Volume 2, Page 577 in 1906.

A somewhat later material was "Journal of medical genetics, Volume 8" published by British Medical Association in 1971, referenced mithridatization as a process but I can't get access to full text discussing it.

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    Inconceivable, prolonged poison ivy handling causes an increase in sensitivity Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 17:38
  • So... is the answer an unqualified "Yes," or might there be a list somewhere of substances for which this is both possible and not possible, or perhaps a set of criteria for the chemical properties that make it possible or impossible? Does that make sense?
    – Hendy
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 15:27
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    @Hendy - The answer is an unqualified "yes" for the very generic wording of the question ("Is that even remotely possible ?"). It obviously has differing lefels of efficacy for different toxins but I haven't found any systematic place collecting such.
    – user5341
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 15:55
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    It's common knowledge among beekeepers that their regular exposure "immunizes" them from allergic reaction. However, going a long period with regular bee stings then a long period without seems to increase likelihood of allergic reaction, so I've heard.
    – user11643
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 2:55
  • @PeterTurner you keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 11:13

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