by Zahir Karbani
Bezoars are masses found within the gastro-intestinal tract of humans and animals, which form over time from foreign bodies (such as swallowed hair or or cellulose) that lodge in the tract and build up over time. Normally the story would stop there (and it would be a nasty short story, indeed) were it not for the strange superstitions that have arisen around them.
Know your Bezoar
Bezoars have been studied enough that there are a host of names for them, depending on what they are composed of:Phytobezoars, Pharmacobezoars, and Trichobezoars, as well as Your kid swallowed a lot of crap. Phytobezoars come from compressed vegetable matter, such as leaves or undigested foods. Pharmacobezoars are from compacted amounts of undigested drugs. And Trichobezoars are composed of hair, usually by people who chew hair constantly, from either a mental defect or a really bad habit.
The term “bezoar” derives from the arabic word badzehr, which means antidote…. which is what you need if your bezoar becomes too large; some patients have been found with bezoars that filled their entire stomachs, while others were able to lose them with ingestion of cellulase enzyme or some other medical trickery. Surgery or tubes down the throat are the usual methods these days, however.
For at least a thousand years, Bezoars have built up a reputation as being talismans of luck, power, or health. Bezoars were used as antidotes to some poisons (explaining their name) or were sometimes kept as lucky talismans to ward off the evil spirits. Bezoars are also known as “Madstones”, which are said to cure animals and people of rabies by attaching the stone to the wound to suck out the poison.
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This article was published on Saturday 23 September, 2006.