|A parasitic fungal growth common to
rye and several grains
is, is ergot. Although history refers
to a poison grain fungus as early as 600 B.C., it was not
until the middle ages that ergot
poisoning was graphically described. Epidemics of St.
Anthony’s fire occurred following the ingestion
of poisoned rye; entire populaces were driven mad, convulsive
seizures were common, and pregnant women aborted. Intense
vasoconstriction led to burning sensations in the extremities;
gangrene was the ultimate fate. Meningeal and ependymal
structures were affected by chemical products from the
infected rye. Central nervous system symptoms noted in
the epidemics resulted therefrom.
Erwin Lear, M.D., Chemistry and Applied
Pharmacology of Tranquilizers. Charles C. Thomas, 1966.