Toxicologists offer possible explanation for cause of Alexander the Great's death

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tags: Alexander the Great

(Phys.org) —Leo Schep and fellow toxicologist Pat Wheatley are suggesting in a paper they've had published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, that Alexander the Great possibly died as a result of ingesting Veratrum album, more commonly known as white hellebore—a common plant with white flowers on it. The two researchers, both from New Zealand, suggest that other common types of poisons would have killed the famous military leader very quickly—while white hellebore, on the other hand, would have killed the man very slowly.

Schep has been on the case for a decade, after being approached by a group working on a BBC documentary about the man that forged one of the largest empires in the ancient world—all before his 32th birthday. He and Wheatley note that there are differing and sometimes conflicting reports of what happened to Alexander the Great, aka Alexander III of Macedon, but most accounts agree that the man grew ill after drinking for several days, remained sick (with a lot of pain) for 12 days, and then died. Schep and Wheatley point out that common poisons of the time such as strychnine or arsenic would have killed Alexander almost right away....

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