[2010 Jan] Found
in wallpapers, dresses and even libido pills: Arsenic, the Victorian Viagra that
poisoned Britain Charles Darwin took arsenic to treat his eczema while
at university, something that could explain his lifetime of ill-health.
Physicians also maintained that it could cure asthma, thus directing patients to
smoke pipes in which tobacco was mixed with the lethal poison.
Their belief in the medicinal properties of arsenic was based on the notion that the body was out of kilter during illness and that the violent symptoms it produced could somehow shock it back into balance.
Although this was nonsense, it was true that very small doses of arsenic could stimulate circulation and increase weight gain. There was great excitement in 1851 when a Viennese medical journal reported on the sexual benefits which arsenic consumption was supposed to have brought the peasantry of Styria - a remote mountainous region in Austria.