They’ve been in use for pretty much all of recorded history. You’ll find many references to them in the Iliad and the Odyssey.
A wide variety of toxins have been used to poison arrows:
- Snake venom. May have been the first poison used on arrows.
- Black and white hellebore. This plant was so dangerous to collect that there were a number of superstitious rituals associated with harvesting it.
- Aconite (also known as monkshood or wolfbane).
- In South America, poison arrow frogs.
- Belladonna (nightshade).
Archers who routinely used poison arrows, such as the Scythians, often had specialized equipment for handling their deadly arrows without accidentally poisoning themselves. The Scythians kept their poison in a cup or vial attached to their belt. They would draw an arrow from their quiver, dip it in the poison cup, and then shoot it.