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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Could you answer some questions for my book?


QUESTION:
I'm writing a fiction piece and wish to be accurate. Please answer my two questions. 1. Would a corpse who ingested liquid tanghin have a normal appearance or a poisoned appearance? 2. How long would the toxicolody screening take? Ex: a minimum of two days or two weeks.

ANSWER:

1) I am not sure which liquid tanghin you mean. The sap is used as an arrow poison and has the same sort of effect as oleander or foxglove...it stops the heart. I have never seen a human killed with a tanghin-dipped arrow or orally ingested sap, but I would imagine they would look like a heart attack victim, maybe a little more terrified if they realized the arrow was doing it to them. If you mean a juice from the fruit, it is dilute enough that vomiting usually occurs before anything worse happens. Unless one drank a great deal of it at once. I guess a person could strangle on his or her own vomit, then the corpse would look like an asphyxia victim. A University of Hawaii source mentions that the juice has been used as both an emetic and a purgative. 2) Toxicology screening would not take long if a specific toxin were suspected,the reference standards were on hand and the presence of the suspected compound were verified. If there is no way of knowing what might be the problem, then you could work hard for two weeks and still not know for sure. I don't know of any untracable poisons, but there are some obscure ones.