Curare, for which urari and woorari are synonyms, first appears in the literature in 1595 in a reference of Hakluyt to Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyage up the Orinoco River to Equador. A crude extract of the drug was used by the natives of that territory on their arrows to kill enemies and animals of prey. Sir Walter Raleigh took samples of this crude drug back to England upon his return.1
In 1814 Watterton and Brodie suggested that the chief action of this drug was the interruption of the neuromuscular mechanism.2 Later Claude Bernard undertook the first extensive scientific investigation of the substance, demonstrating that the site of action is at the myoneural junction and that the cause of death is anoxia from paralysis of the diaphragm.3,4 Since 1857 curare has been used for the treatment of such conditions as tetany, tetanus, strychnine poisoning, and chorea.5
The drug was used by Hoffman6 in 1879 to treat the convulsions in tetanus. The modern purified drug has been produced from samples of curare7,8 brought from Equador to this country by Gill9 in 1932. Curare was again employed in tetanus by Cole10 in 1934, Mitchell11 in 1935, and West5 in 1936. Burman12 treated spastic states with curare in 1939, while in 1940, 1941, and 1942, Bennett,13 Gray,14 and Cummins15 used it to attenuate the convulsions of tetrazol and electric shock therapy in psychiatry.
The first use of curare in anesthesia was reported by Griffith and Johnson16 in 1942. That year and again in 1943. . .