A professor in pharmacology, Norman Nyazema, has dismissed as a myth the widespread belief that crocodile bile is one of the most lethal poisons which can kill with just a small dose.
Addressing a Health Journalists’ Association of Zimbabwe (HeJAZ) workshop in Harare yesterday, Nyazema, a lecturer at the University of Limpopo in South Africa, said talk that crocodile bile is poisonous was a “rural myth”.
“Crocodile bile is not poisonous at all. In fact, it is being dried at the crocodile farm in Kariba and crushed before it is sold to China where it’s used as an aphrodisiac,” Nyazema said.
He said he had conducted a study in which he wanted to discover the symptoms suffered by those “poisoned” by the bile and if there could be an antidote for the poison, when he discovered that the bile was harmless.
“I did the study so that I could establish the symptoms suffered by the person poisoned by the bile and if there could be an antidote, but I found that it was not even poisonous,” Nyazema said.
Many Zimbabweans believe crocodile bile is a lethal poison, which is normally put on fingertips by those wanting to kill their victims.
Communities quickly burn the bile of a crocodile after it is killed to avoid anyone coming into contact with the bile or collecting it for fear of the alleged poisonous properties.
Nyazema said there were a number of very poisonous plants which are known by herbalists which can kill human beings with the slightest dosage.
He said it is these plants which have been used to deliver death, mostly during beer-drinking outings.
“These plants can just be put on the fingertips and as people pass around the calabash, they just press their fingers on the edges and if one’s lips just touch that area, they are gone,” he said.
Following a suspected beer poisoning in January that claimed dozens of lives ,the Zimbabwean pharmacologist who proved in the 1980s that crocodile bile is not poisonous says that any speculation on its involvement in the Mozambique beer tragedy is “nonsense.”
Norman Z. Nyazema, Ph.D., now a professor of pharmacology at the University of Limpopo in South Africa, told Forbes.com that he more likely suspects a common agricultural pesticide as the agent that has now killed 73 people in the villages of Chitima and Songo, Mozambique.