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September 13, 1965

Histoire du Curare: Les Poisons de Chasse en Amérique du Sud

JAMA. 1965;193(11):981. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090110119051

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Travelers' romantic tales about curare have had a relaxing effect on the critical faculties of many writers. Publications discussing curare continue to appear containing quotations from Spanish authors of the 16th century, which conjure up desperate battles, the clash of arms, and hordes of armored Spaniards quailing before flights of poisoned arrows. The agonized death of the wounded is portrayed in chilling details; and the poison, these romanticists contend, was curare. Vellard denies this, pointing out that, at least among the Nambikwara Indians of the Matto Grosso, who have manufactured and used the arrow poison for centuries, there is a powerful taboo forbidding the use of curare against man. Certainly these early "clinical" descriptions have little in common with the known effects of curare; the wounded Spaniards often lingered on, in agony, for a day or longer.

Vellard has traveled and lived among the South American Indian tribes for many

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