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Say 'Aaah' | Booster Shots

Hopes Were High for Nicotine

May 10, 1999|ROSIE MESTEL

Ever wonder how nicotine got its name? OK, OK, we're pretty sure you haven't. But we're going to tell you anyway.

We stumbled upon the origins of the word while puffing (sorry) through various sites on the Web till we came to one called MedicineNet (http://www.medicinenet.com). There we read about a 16th century Frenchman named Jean Nicot, one-time French ambassador to Portugal.

A botanist pal of Nicot's invited him for dinner one night and took him for a tour of his garden, showed Nicot his tobacco plant and told him all about its wondrous healing properties. Nicot took the plant away and spread the word. He even sent some tobacco snuff to the queen of France, who swore by it to cure her headaches and dubbed it "the queen's herb." Eventually, the plant became known as "nicotine," after Nicot. (These days, nicotine is the name for the addictive chemical in the weed.)

The list of things tobacco was meant to help with goes on and on, we further read: the plague, labor pains, bad breath (excuse me?), even cancer. Sorry, but we have our doubts about that one. OK, all of them, actually.

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