What are the origins of toxicology?
Toxicology originated when early cave dwellers recognized poisonous plants and animals and used their extracts during hunting or warfare to gain an advantage over their targets. However, the earliest written records of poisons including hemlock, opium, arrow poisons, and certain metals, used in execution and assassinations, were produced in 1500 BC. However, it is believed that the first collections of text concerning toxicology, The Treatise on Poisons and Their Antidotes, written by Moses Maimonides in the year 1198 and marked a development in ideas regarding the exposure of a specific substance and illness and/ or death. Some of the more notable developments of toxicology were in the renaissance and age of enlightenment starting with the developments conducted by Paracelsus in the sixteenth century.
Paracelsus (1493-1541), born Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, determined through his studies that specific chemicals were responsible for the toxicity of extracts collected from certain plants and animals. He then proceeded to record the response of the human body to different dosages of xenobiotics. Through his studies, he concluded that depending on the toxicity of the substance that small dosages of a xenobiotic had no harmful and in some cases a beneficial effect upon the body whilst high dosages were generally poisonous to the body. This hormesis trend allowed a major concept in toxicology, the dose-response relationship to be found, and significantly developing toxicology.