Today’s Murderously Precise Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Cyanide’s action is murderously precise. It attaches with stunning speed to protein molecules in the blood – called hemoglobins – that carry oxygen throughout the body. Thus the poison is rapidly circulated by the bloodstream and delivered to cells through the body. There it shreds cellular energy mechanisms, breaks down cellular respiration, and causes rapid cell death due to oxygen starvation. Cellular respiration suffers an instant “paralysis,” and the body begins to die. Enzyme production is stymied, electrical signals falter, and as muscle cells and nerve cells explosively fail, body-rattling convulsions frequently result.
After death, the bluish tones of oxygen deprivation mottle the skin. On autopsy, the blood shows such a dark red that it sometimes appears purple. The veins leading from lung to heart are engorged with blood – evidence of the heart’s desperate efforts to circulate more and more blood as the body seeks desperately for any stray trace of oxygen. In the early 20th century, the easily available cyanide salts provided further specific evidence of the poison because they were so corrosive. If swallowed, they burned their way down. An autopsy of a cyanide victim found the mucous membranes of the lips, mouth, and esophagus darkened to a bloody, ragged red – especially if the poison had been taken without food to buffer the impact. The stomach became swollen, discolored, clotted with swampy, streaky mucus produced as the cyanide salts broke down.
Culled from: The Poisoner’s Handbook