Saturday, September 29, 2012

This tree contains deadly amounts of a concentrated poison

In Japan, people used to practice an extreme form of Buddhism called Sokushinbutsu. One of its stranger focuses was to achieve enlightenment by mummifying yourself over several years while still alive. A key part of this was a tea made from the urushi tree, Toxicodendron vernicifluum. This tree contains deadly amounts of a concentrated poison called urushiol, also found in much smaller quantities in poison ivy. The tea would be taken in order to produce an extreme and violent reaction. The body would lose all fluids via numerous orifices almost immediately, and the remaining flesh would be highly toxic. This was perfect for mummification, as it ensured that there was almost no water left in the body for it to decompose, and the remaining tissues would become too poisonous from the urushi tea for even maggots to infest. When prepared properly, the tea itself is not quite deadly, but it was used before death to ensure the body would mummify properly and not rot or decay. Today it is illegal in Japan to drink urushi tea.

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