Australian plant cure for snake bites any validation it ever existed?

In reading journals of exploration and history of Australia, a prisoner was said to have cured people of snake bite. He was said to have watched an animal fighting a snake, and it would eat a plant when bitten and it lived the snake died. He was said to have saved some people’s lives, but died without reveling the plant cure, when they refused to pardon him. Does anybody else have any information about this story as being backed by evidence and not just hearsay of the time. It’s very interesting in that it was a plant and not antitoxin made from venom. I will try to find the journal, but I’ve read a lot of material.

This sounds like a slightly garbled version of a poem called “Johnson’s Antidote” by a famous Australian playwrite (the same man who wrote Waltzing Matilda amongst many others).

In that version Johnson acquires information from an old Aboriginal man that goannas (monitor lizards) can be seen to eat a certain plant after they fight with snakes, Johnson wanders around and eventually sees a goanna fighting a snake. He then follows it and sees it eating a plant, from which he concocts his ‘antidote’. The punchline being

It was just a joke. As far as I know it never had any basis in fact, though it may have been based on some sort of rural legend.

Brain fart.

He was of course an author, poet, reporter, lawyer and several other things, but to the best of my knowledge never playwright.

Yes, it sounds like a tall tale based on the Banjo Paterson poem referred to by Blake. Or possibly some earlier bush legend on which Paterson based the poem.

That is not the correct author or story on the link.

I’m thinking it was writen by a retired guard from the original founding as a penal colony. The prisoner was an escaped convict that was recaptured and he cured a couple people then he died without pardon. I would have to guess it was written about 1800. I did some document searchs on my hard drive, but haven’t found it yet. As you can imagine searching australian settlement books for snakes and snake bites gives a lot of returns.

Well keep us posted. It would be interesting to find that the poem has some historical basis.

Thanks for posting. I wish I could find the right text. It’s one of those things I would want to know if the people involved could at least be verified.

I’m still interested in this.

I find it really hard to believe this. Common sense seems to argue against many of the points given.

It refers to a generic “snake bite”. But there are many different types of snake venom, with significantly different effects. For example, Neurotoxic venom attacks the victim’s central nervous system and usually results in heart failure or breathing failure. Hemotoxic Venom attacks the circulatory system and muscle tissue. I don’t see how a single plant would be able to counteract the very different effects of different snake venoms.

And given that snake venom is fast-acting (it has to be; if the victim can run away before it dies the snake gets no meal, so it’s pointless), how could eating a plant get any antidote into your system fast enough to be effective? It takes a few hours for most plant products to be digested & absorbed by the body, after all.

Finally, that part about ‘eating the plant causes the victim to live, but the snake dies’ just seems ridiculous. How could something a victim eats effect the snake in any way? Some kind of ‘sympathetic magic’? Yeah, right. That part alone makes me mistrust the whole story.

I’d say it’s all B.S.

It was an animal fighting a snake the animal lived after being bitten, the snake was killed by the animal and eaten. It died before being consumed, or at least when it went down the animal’s throat in pieces.

Blake and others I have found the book source I read this in. I can absolutely say that the author is writing facts equivalent to the best writings of Jules Verne. In other words the rumors of the phantasmagorias Australian wonders are written as fact in the character of someone who witnessed the event, but in truth never left England.

You need to understand that spinning yarns (ie regaling people with amusing but utterly false stories) is an Australian art form, even more so in the era I suspect you are referring to. There is essentially no reason whatsoever to believe this yarn.

Glad you found it.

Can you tell us the name of this book, and when it was published? I would be interested to know if it predates Patterson’s work or borrows from it.