The Dose Makes the Poison

All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison

The right dose differentiates a poison….

Paracelsus (1493-1541)

A substance can produce the harmful effect associated with its toxic properties only if it reaches a susceptible biological system within your body in a sufficient concentration (a high enough dose). The toxic effect of a substance increases as the exposure (or dose) to the susceptible biological system increases. For all chemicals there is a dose response curve, or a range of doses that result in a graded effect between the extremes of no effect and 100% response (toxic effect). All chemical substances will exhibit a toxic effect given a large enough dose. If the dose is low enough even a highly toxic substance will cease to cause a harmful effect. The toxic potency of a chemical is thus ultimately defined by the dose (the amount) of the chemical that will produce a specific response in a specific biological system.

Toxicology is the study of poisons or toxicants and their adverse effects on various organs and tissues of the body. The term "toxin" is often used as a synonym for poison, but some specialists prefer to reserve that name for poisons of biological origin, like snake venom or poison ivy.

With advances in imaging technologies and in chemical measurement technologies, the scope of toxicology is progressively broadening to subsume more subtle, subclinical effects of toxicants.

Paracelsus was a medieval alchemist who is often recognized as both the "father of toxicology" and the "father of pharmacology" because of his pioneering work in systematizing the study of effects of chemicals and drugs.

Paracelsus stated that

This notion of dose is critical for understanding toxic effects.

At very low doses, even the most toxic chemicals known will cause no discernable effect on humans, while at very high doses, even essential substances like oxygen and water will harm or kill. In between, different amounts will cause different degrees of harm

To health and wellness



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