Medicine: Mysteries of Curare

The conquistadors had no sooner begun cutting their way through the jungles of South America than they found themselves suffering casualties from Indian darts tipped with a potent, paralyzing poison. But a century passed before Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595 carried to Europe the first samples of "urari"—a variant of curare. Years later botanists classified the shrubs from which curare is made,* and the brilliant French physiologist, Claude Bernard, in 1856 made an important discovery: from samples supplied by Brazil's Emperor Pedro II he showed that curare paralyzes its victims by blocking transmission...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!