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Poison Used in Game of Thrones 'Purple Wedding' Explained by Science [VIDEO]

Apr 29, 2014 05:23 PM EDT
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WARNING: GAME OF THRONES SEASON 4 SPOILER AHEAD

Fan's of George R.R. Martin's "Fire and Ice" novels, which come to life on screen with HBO's "Game of Thrones" series know that weddings are not always the celebratory affairs they're made out to be.

In the latest in a series of videos that break down the science behind fun pop-culture quirks, the American Chemical Society details what exactly brought the infamous "Purple Wedding" to its climax.

The latest wedding to take place on the HBO show had a violent end, with the vicious King Joffery Baratheon drinking from a goblet of poisoned wine, quickly, and painfully succumbing to death.

The poison, known in GOT lore as "The Strangler" causes the muscles in a person's neck to clench so tight that air cannot pass through the victim's windpipe, causing them to asphyxiate.

An anecdotal analysis of literature led Raychelle Burks, a chemist at Doane College in Nebraska, to suggest three plants that could have been ingredients in the deadly concoction: night shade, poison hemlock and the strychnine tree.

All thee plants make alkaloids, naturally occurring compounds that share the same basic chemical structure. Three deadly alkaloid suspects that can be derived from the plants are: atropine, conine, and strychnine.

Poisoning from the alkaloids found in deadly night shade and hemlock, however, cause muscles to relax, not a suitable way for poison known as The Strangler to operate.

Strychnine, however, does cause muscles in the face and neck to constrict. Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin described The Strangler as being made form the leaves of a plant found half a world away, then treated with a wash of lime and a wash of sugar.

If Martin was employing a play on the word lime, it makes a strong case that The Strangler could be a form of strychnine derived from limestone. The strychnine poison is derived from a plant, and in some cases it can be created with a limestone product, calcium oxide, a high pH substance than can be used to extract the deadly strychnine alkaloid from plant leaves.

As for the sugar? It could just be a way to mask the bitter taste of the poison.

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