Previous: What Fruit Flies Taught Us About Human Biology
Next: How Alchemy Led to Modern-Day Chemistry & Medicine



View count:149,433
Last sync:2024-06-30 22:15


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "Can You Drink Snake Venom?" YouTube, uploaded by SciShow, 5 January 2021,
MLA Inline: (SciShow, 2021)
APA Full: SciShow. (2021, January 5). Can You Drink Snake Venom? [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (SciShow, 2021)
Chicago Full: SciShow, "Can You Drink Snake Venom?", January 5, 2021, YouTube, 04:12,
Go to to start streaming Ocean Mysteries. Use code SciShow to sign up, just $14.99 for the whole YEAR.

Can you actually drink that steaming mug of snake venom? The science comes down to the difference between poisons and venoms, and to the oral toxicity of the venom itself.

Hosted by: Stefan Chin

SciShow has a spinoff podcast! It's called SciShow Tangents. Check it out at
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Huge thanks go to the following Patreon supporters for helping us keep SciShow free for everyone forever:

Marwan Hassoun, Jb Taishoff, Bd_Tmprd, Harrison Mills, Jeffrey Mckishen, James Knight, Christoph Schwanke, Jacob, Matt Curls, Sam Buck, Christopher R Boucher, Eric Jensen, Lehel Kovacs, Adam Brainard, Greg, Ash, Sam Lutfi, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, charles george, Alex Hackman, Chris Peters, Kevin Bealer
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Thanks to CuriosityStream for  supporting this episode of SciShow.

Go to to learn more. [♪ INTRO]. If I were to ask you whether  it’s safe to drink snake venom, you’d probably have a very firm answer right away.

Either you’d automatically say no,  because snakes wield deadly poisons…. Or, if you’re a science pedant,  you might unequivocally say yes, because snakes wield venoms, not poisons. Well, I’m here to tell you that  actually, both those answers are wrong — and at best, the correct answer is... maybe?

Let’s start with the surefire no. The science pedants out there are  right when they point out that venoms and poisons differ — namely,  by the route of administration. Both fall under the broader  umbrella of “toxins”, meaning they cause problems in relatively small amounts.

But venoms get into you via  wounds, like a snake bite, while poisons are either inhaled,  swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. And yes, this difference matters when  it comes to how toxins affect you! Since venom goes directly into  your bloodstream, it doesn’t need to be able to survive a trip through your stomach.

So, venoms often contain big,  somewhat delicate molecules that can be inactivated or  destroyed by your digestive juices. But before you run out to do a  shot of snake venom, let’s move on to the misconception behind that solid yes answer. You see, there may be no  evolutionary reason for venom toxins to work when consumed, but that  doesn’t mean that they never do.

What you really need to know  is the venom’s oral toxicity: how different amounts affect you when ingested. And oral toxicities tend to  be lower than injected ones. That’s in part because of those  digestive juices we mentioned.

Also, there’s the physical barrier  of your gut lining—so odds are, some of the stuff just passes  through you without getting absorbed. But that doesn’t mean venoms  are guaranteedly drinkable. For instance, the venom of the  blue-ringed octopus contains the potent paralytic tetrodotoxin,  which is roughly 40 times less toxic when swallowed than when injected.

But still, it’s a super deadly poison! So if you did somehow manage to  obtain a shot glass full of venom from these golf ball-sized octopuses,  you definitely wouldn't want to drink it. I can’t actually say it would kill  you, because we haven’t tested this venom’s oral toxicity.

But that’s kinda the thing—we  haven’t tested most venoms that way. There simply hasn’t really been a reason to! So we don’t know if they’re safe to drink.

Though, there we do have some  evidence to suggest they aren’t. For instance, in a study published  in 2015, rats that ingested cobra venom ended up with damage to their livers reminiscent of what happens after a regular bite. Plus, there’s been at least one  case where someone almost died after drinking snake wine, a  beverage prepared by steeping an entire venomous snake in alcohol.

And this guy wasn’t suffering from  run-of-the-mill alcohol poisoning. He was admitted to the hospital  because his blood had stopped clotting properly — a symptom  often caused by snake venoms. And he got better after receiving antivenom.

Researchers in Australia are  actually hoping some venom toxins work orally… on insects, that is. That way, they can more  easily be used as pesticides. And so far, 70% of the spider  venoms they’ve tested killed the fruit flies that ate  them, which sounds promising as far as pesticides go!

Now, that doesn’t mean they’re  dangerous for us to drink. But still, the research is  further evidence that venom toxins can do their nefarious work when ingested. So... can you drink snake venom?

I mean… maybe? It could depend  on the species of snake? But we haven’t done the tests to  find out, and making assumptions based on the difference between  venoms and poison is a terrible idea.

Now if you’re eager to learn  more about toxins in general, you might enjoy a subscription to  today’s sponsor, CuriosityStream. With CuriosityStream, you can  watch thousands of documentaries and non-fiction TV shows on any device you want, all for the low price of just $14.99 per year. You could check out the Ocean  Mysteries series, for instance, and learn about the secrets  of venom from Jeff Corwin.

Or, you could scroll through their  award-winning exclusives and originals. With so many hand-picked and curated programs, there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy. So if you love educational  videos, and, since you’re here,.

I assume you do, you may want to head on over to. to learn more. [♪ OUTRO].