Murder, Magic And Medicine

Dr Michael O'donnell begins an exploration of (series 1) the herbal and historical roots of modern drugs and medicine, (series 2) the role played by animals in a variety of medical treatments.

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Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
0101Kill Of Cure19990113

Curare, used on the arrow tips of Amazonian hunters to stop prey dead in its tracks, is also widely used by Western medicine in anaesthesia.

0102The Doctrine Of Signatures19990120

Eighty per cent of the world's population still relies on folk remedies, and most of the pills and potions produced by pharmaceutical companies have natural origins. Perhaps herbalism has more to teach us than we thought.

0103The Doors Of Perception19990127

In the Rig Veda as well as in accounts of the Norse beserkers, soma, the divine mushroom, was revered for its ability to create visions and for giving the sensation of flight. Nowadays, it is more commonly known as the fly agaric toadstool.

0104Easing The Pain19990203

Although opium and cannabis may be firmly associated in most people's minds with drug culture, they also fulfil an important role as painkillers. Michael O'donnell traces the development of analgesics and looks ahead to the intriguing possibility of doctors harnessing the body's own built-in painkillers.

0105Of Microbes And Men19990210

The antibiotics we now take for granted originally arose out of ruthless chemical warfare between fungi and bacteria. Dr Michael O'donnell looks at life from a fungus's point of view and discovers how they may hold the key to a treasure chest of new drugs.

0106 LASTA Future Herbal19990217

Mainstream medicine is finally rediscovering the value of plants as a source of drugs.

Dr Michael O'donnell asks what role traditional and new plant remedies will play in the 21st century.

0201The Serpent's Tale2001032720011016

Venomous snakes are known - and feared - for their power to kill. Yet they also have the power to heal, as the many patients who have taken heart or circulatory drugs based on their venoms can testify.

0202Blood Suckers And Flesh Eaters2001040320011023

He finds out how leeches and maggots are being used in medicine today.

0203Sweet Cures And Stings2001041020011030

He finds that, after 3,000 years of use in folk medicine, the value of honey is only just being rediscovered by modern practitioners.

0204 LASTThe Nature Of Medicine2001041720011106

Animal behaviour can be valuable in diagnosis, in pointing to new sources of drugs and in giving new insights into the nature of medicine itself.