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W is for White Snakeroot.....

A poisonous perennial herb native to eastern North America, White Snakeroot, blooms late summer/early fall and contains the toxin known as tremetol. When the plant is consumed by cattle, the toxin contaminates the meat and milk of the animal. And, if the animal is consumed by humans, the toxin is passed on to humans. Tremetol poisoning in humans is generally referred to as Milk Sickness, as many times individuals became sick after drinking the milk of cows who've eaten snakeroot.

Milk Sickness was first noted in the early 19th century when European settlers, unfamiliar with the plant, began moving into its territory and allowed their cattle to roam freely in wooded areas. Symptoms of the illness (convulsions, violent vomiting, delirium) were described as "the trembles" or "the slows" or the illness "under which man turns sick and his domestic animals tremble."

The death toll from Milk Sickness was so high that sometimes half a frontier settlement might succumb.

Modern animal husbandry methods and controlling cattle pastures have made milk sickness a rare event in the United States, though pasteurization does NOT eliminate the threat of tremetol poisoning. It is still possible to get sick from consuming dairy products from cows that have eaten White Snakeroot....

Dairy Blues

I never thought I'd see the day,
when mother's milk would treat me this way,
I shiver, I squirm,
I tremble, I shake,
I know I'm dying,
what a bad day this makes.

                                                                                           ---e.a.s. demers


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