Food / Science

The Dose Makes the Poison: The Reason Most “Toxins” Are Harmless

A bowl of cereal contains Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT). So does lighter fluid. Does that mean that your cereal is unhealthy and poisonous? According to many people, it means the cereal is filled with toxic chemicals that may cause serious harm. However, what this example leaves out is the principle known as “the dose makes the poison.”

The “dose makes the poison” is a toxicology principle established by Paracelsus. He said, “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.” What does this mean? It means any chemical can be toxic if it is consumed in large enough quantities over a period of time. Paracelsus discovered that even chemicals which are beneficial at low levels can be toxic at much higher concentrations.


There are actually small amounts of poison in many fruits and vegetables. As the diagram notes, pears contain formaldehyde. However, consuming pears is not dangerous unless they are eaten at an incredibly high level. Potatoes contain Solanine, which is commonly referred to by internet doctors as a toxin that can cause leaky gut, IBS, appendicitis, spina bifida and birth defects. There are no studies supporting this conclusion. A person would need to eat at least 70 potatoes at one sitting in order to become ill from Solanine.

This is equally true for vitamins and minerals that are also considered healthy. Vitamin D is necessary for good health, yet in extreme doses it can cause deafness, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and other problems.

So are chemicals produced in nature safer than chemicals produced in a lab? Not really. Some synthetic chemicals are toxic and have been linked to cancer by scientific studies. Most synthetic substances are acceptable for human consumption unless they are ingested in an extremely high dosage. Chemicals produced in nature can also be toxins. In fact, they are called toxins because plants and animals often create them as a response or defense to danger.

It is overly simplistic to say that a person should “avoid all toxins.” Many alternative health practitioners sell people on the idea of toxic accumulation in the body. The colon is their main target, alleging that plaques and sludge in the intestines cause all sorts of harm. However, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that the body does not accumulate toxins and that there is no such thing as toxic sludge requiring a detoxification remedy.

Illnesses are also not caused by toxins. People are exposed to a wide variety of substances constantly: through the air, through the water, through food and almost everything a person touches. The human body has a complex system of self-detoxification. The liver, kidneys, skin and lymphatic systems are a kind of natural detoxification system. That means people don’t need to take supplements or do cleanses in order to eliminate harmful toxins.

Although it is hip to purchase detox treatments and cleanses, there is no scientific evidence that these treatments offer any health benefits. They may even be harmful. So how can a person be sure they are not ingesting chemicals that will cause cancer? Ask your doctor about the chemicals and research how big a dose must be to make you sick. When in doubt, read peer-reviewed medical journals to establish whether there is actually a link between the toxin and a health problem.


  1. Wikileaks says:

    Is this true real though?

    • Unity says:

      what are you talking about?

  2. Sam Trudeau says:

    This article is right on the mark. The entire ‘detox’ industry is based on no science whatsoever.

  3. Billy D Jones says:

    People like Dr. Oz and celebrities who perpetuate these lies should be ashamed of themselves. Total scam.

  4. Rainbow says:

    I have a bone to pick with this article. Toxins are not naturaly occurring in fruits and vegetables. They are put there by PESTICIDES!

    • Dave Anonymous says:

      No that’s not true. The trace amounts of chemicals you call toxins are there even in organic produce.

  5. American Way says:

    The Anti-Vaxxer crowd can’t handle the truth.

  6. Science says:

    These are important principles. I get tired of people having zero understanding of science.

  7. Trudy says:

    Very Misleading

  8. Howard says:

    It is not misleading, it’s accurate. This is what we need more of, facts not bogus websites from fake “doctors”

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