Toad venom as aphrodisiac causes death

By Sheryl Kay • Published: September 29th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

This is one frog no princess would ever want to kiss. It’s a six-inch amphibian called a cane toad, and it’s one of dozens of poisonous frogs that secrete a toxin to ward off their enemies.

Now, that poison has been turned into small, hard, dark brown squares that some people are eating, believing it will increase their sexual prowess. One New York City man just paid for it with his life.

The 35-year-old victim checked into an emergency room within twelve hours of consuming the substance, complaining of chest and abdominal pains.

Diagnosed with an abnormally slow heart rhythm, the man initially appeared to be recovering. But ultimately his health rapidly declined and he died.

For years it’s been reported that one of the active ingredients in the poison called bufotenine

[be-u-foh-TEN-een] can cause hallucinations if ingested. About twenty years ago that morphed into a belief that the venom was also an aphrodisiac. As far back as the early ’90s people started eating it and dying.

Since then the Food and Drug Administration has declared the substance illegal, but small shipments slip through, and adult shops sell the product under street names like Piedra [pee-AY-drah], Rock Hard, Love Stone and Chinese Rock.

Some think the product is safer if it’s rubbed on as its packaging recommends, but doctors warn against this as well, noting that even topical use can cause nausea, vomiting and chest or abdominal pain. Toad venom, they say, is no fairly tale, no matter how it’s taken.