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Improbable Antidote

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Oh no! The hero was just given an injection of Killsyoucine, the most deadly poison known to man! They're doomed! Wallowing in despair, they gorge themself on pop-tarts to drown out the pain...

...but wait... why are they feeling better?

Poisons come in all sorts of forms. So do, it seems, antidotes. Anything might turn out to be one! Often, the poisoned is not aware of the antidote until after it's been ingested, but in any case, rest assured that it won't be the last time it comes up.

If it almost immediately cures the poison or disease, then it's also a Magic Antidote. Sometimes these antidotes are the key to surviving the Self-Poisoning Gambit. Compare Curse That Cures, where the antidote is simply being sick with something else.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Case Closed, Conan is given a kind of Chinese alcohol called baijiu for his cold. It ends up temporarily canceling out the effects of Apotoxin, making him a teenager again. Unfortunately, when he tries it again a few days later, it doesn't work — Dr. Agasa theorizes his body developed an immunity. As later realized, the actual cure was the liquor in combination with a head cold — even an artificially-induced one.
  • In the Galaxy Angel manga, Chitose (under a very complex example of Brainwashed and Crazy) uses a special poppy seed to poison the entire Angel Troupe. After escaping and kidnapping Tact, it turns out that the antidote was an uncommon spice - that happened to be in the fried chicken Milfeulle had just made and they had all been eating. (In spite of one of the group supposedly being a religious Vegetarian.) Milfie's power is extreme luck, though, so...
  • In Ninja Scroll, government spy Dakuan recruits Master Swordsman Jubei through use of the Poison and Cure Gambit. Late in the movie, he reveals that the "cure" is actually the third member of their group, Poisonous Person Kagero. The poison that constantly circulates through her body and which can kill someone with minimal contact will neutralize the poison Jubei is suffering from. Somehow.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marsupilami book "Le Temple de Boavista", the antidote to the pyramid temple's glow-in-the-dark poison (stated to eventually cause death by laughter) is to climb up the pyramid. The altitude at the top kills the microfauna in the poison.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse in The Smurfs is cured by the pollen of a specific flower; Papa Smurf discovers it by pure chance when he decides to feed a captured zombie fly with that flower.
  • In the Marvel Transformers series, Blaster and Bumblebee, along with baddies Blitzwing, Astrotrain, and Octane, are infected with robo-parasites known as Scraplets. They're downright adorable and can transform into life-size screws, nuts, and bolts. But they'll eat you alive from the inside out and it ain't pretty. The only cure: an extremely rare chemical compound. If they can't find it, goodies and baddies alike will have to be dissolved to stop the potential epidemic from spreading. Good thing that rare compound isn't nearly as rare on Earth. It's called water.

    Fan Works 
  • Triptych Continuum: In the Continuum, specific gems have drug-like effects on dragons and can be taken as medicine. Pulmonary edema can apparently be treated with cachalong opals, while a disease that causes Spike's body to overproduce the chemical that makes his scales heat-proof requires pink topaz to treat.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Almost Heroes, Chris Farley must find the Egg of an Eagle to save Matt Perry. Hilarity ensues after his repeated assault by the eagles and eating the eagle's eggs for being hungry. Finally, he brings the last egg, intact, back to the camp, only to find out that the antidote is the eggshells.
  • In Left Behind: World at War, communion wine becomes an antidote for anthrax poisoning.
  • In The Man with Nine Lives, Dr. Kravaal mixes a beaker of Deadly Gas that he uses to try and hold the officials hostage. One of them knocks the flask from his hand, resulting in them all inhaling it. They stumble into the freezing chamber, and become Locked in a Freezer. By a staggering coincidence, the gas they inhaled turns out to be the solution needed to turn them into Human Popsicles.
  • In The Patriot (1998), the cure for the bioweapon the villains released turned out to be the herbal tea that the hero and his daughter had with breakfast the morning before they were exposed to the virus.
  • A supernatural example comes in The Ring movies, where the female lead does the thing to break the curse, that is, making a copy, and showing it to someone else, without knowing it.

  • The Andromeda Strain causes instantaneous and lethal blood coagulation throughout the body. It also can't survive outside of a very narrow pH range, so doing something that messes with your blood pH will make you immune.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: A plot point is that the Devouring Myne is afflicted with can only be treated with expensive magical items. Myne finds out that a common fruit has the same effect by pure chance. The fact that doing so causes the fruit to transform into the seed of a very dangerous tree keeps the treatment from being used casually. However, Myne just so happens to also have personal use for young branches of the tree in question, and cutting them off when they first show up keeps the tree from maturing into its dangerous form.
  • The Bible is full of improbable antidotes, but only to show that it's faith in God rather than the antidote itself that heals.
  • Played with in the third book of the Gaea Trilogy, Demon, where the "cure" for a genetically engineered zombie infestation turns out to be a traditional Love Potion recipe — somehow, that specific mixture of ingredients (never actually shown to have the intended effect, by the way) proves near-instantly fatal to the "zombie snakes" animating the corpses and causes them to collapse.
  • His Fair Assassin: In Grave Mercy, Gavriel Duval is poisoned by an unknown enemy, and Ismae — ironically a Master Poisoner herself — is left scrambling to find the antidote. But because she doesn't know what kind of poison it is, she has no way of counteracting it. Then, once she discovers what poison was used, the only cure she knows about will be impossible to find in time. As it turns out, Ismae herself is a cure for any poison. She is immune to poison, and skin-on-skin contact with her quite literally draws the poison out of whoever is affected and neutralizes it. Considering how she goes about saving him, it gives a whole new meaning to Intimate Healing.
  • The Rowan of Rin series did this with one of the fish-people tribes having created one hundred poisons and an antidote for each. The one that poisons his mother had a very strange antidote, which that last of the antidote had been used up. One handful of silver sand that can only be found in a pool of water that has carnivorous fish, the juice of a flower that grows underwater in that pool, a fresh feather from a monstrous bird that hunts the fish, and, the best one, a drop of venom from the sea serpent queen that crawls onto land to that pool just to lay her eggs in the pool once a year at that particular day that his mother was poisoned. At least he was given the recipe beforehand.
  • In Sad Cypress, the victim was killed by morphine poisoning. The killer ingested some morphine as well to divert attention from themselves but quickly took apomorphine to remove the poison from their own bodies.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the antidote to the deadly mushroom, the Meducoid Myceclium, turns out to be horseradish (can be substituted with wasabi).
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish contains an off-hand mention that Arthur Dent's lunch when he first gets back to Earth (which consists of the three least mouldy things in his fridge) actually cured him of a space disease he'd unknowingly picked up which, uncured, would have killed or rendered infertile everyone on the planet.
  • Deconstructed in Temeraire books; while ill with the soon-to-be-fatal dragon flu, Temeraire unknowingly ingests the curing mushroom in a chef's experiment. The problem is that the recovery took over a week to become noticeable so they have no idea what Temeraire ate or did to get better, so they have to recreate his steps to actually figure out what caused it.
  • In Vertical Run by Joseph Garber, the hero has an engineered disease throughout the story that's progressing. In the end, after thwarting whatever evil scheme the bad guys had planned for it, he accepts his fate and goes to the mountains to spend his last days. The last page is a letter addressed to the Big Bad. There's blood on it. It tells the Big Bad that the disease cannot survive at higher altitudes, and to keep his head down. Apparently, he didn't.
  • Subverted in Vigilant. The scope of a plague (later revealed to be a bioweapon) becomes so large and devastating that medical science gives up on trying to find a cure the normal way and ends up trying whatever random thing comes to mind. The cure is found to be olive oil...subverted, because it much later turns out that someone developed the cure, and then altered the olive oil to carry it, unknown to anyone at the time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Green Death": The cure for the eponymous death turns out to be the dried spores of the fungus Professor Jones is working on as a solution to world hunger.
    • "The Unicorn and the Wasp": The Doctor cures himself of cyanide poisoning by covering himself in ginger beer, eating walnuts and anchovies, and getting kissed. Don't ask. Justified by the Doctor's well-known Bizarre Alien Biology. Not to mention the Rule of Funny. Technically the cure is ginger beer, something rich in protein, something salty (except for salt, which is too salty), and a shock. The aforementioned things were what happened to be located quickest.
    • "The Lodger": The Doctor cures Craig after he has been infected by the "rot" spreading from the ceiling by feeding him "agitated tannin molecules". He does this by stuffing every teabag he can find, including those in the bin, into the teapot and pouring the resultant brew down Craig's throat.
  • In an episode of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids TV show, Hilarity Ensues when a Love Potion is accidentally spilled over a box of chocolates. The antidote turns out to be anything vanilla-flavored, with the explanation that this is because vanilla is the opposite of chocolate.
  • An interesting usage by House, as well as an example of Truth in Television. One episode features a death row inmate who has tried to kill himself by drinking several bottles of copier fluid. House sits by the guy's bedside as his condition worsens, and the two of them each down several shots of high-proof rum. Only after a while does House reveal the truth: copier fluid is about 90% methanol, or wood alcohol, and the treatment for that is large amounts of ethanol, or grain alcohol. All those shots he had the guy drinking were slowly curing him.
  • An episode of The Invisible Man series was centered on quicksilver-producing bacteria, which had eventually proven to be lethal. At the climactic moment, the cure was conveniently found... in mayonnaise. BAD mayonnaise to be specific; they realized it when one character who they had presumed was sick like everyone else turned out to just have food poisoning from his favorite lunch place. The bacteria in the food out-competed the quicksilver-producing bacteria, essentially saving everyone's lives by making them puke out their guts.
  • An episode of MacGyver had Pete poisoned by prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) gas in a mall. Mac recognizes the poison by its distinctive almond smell and dashes toward a photo developer booth, whose printing machine contains sodium thiosulfate, an antidote for cyanide poisoning.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Night of the Tarantula", a victim of rat poison is saved because his new wife had earlier served him a herbal tea to help with migraine that just happened to contain the natural antidote to the poison, so his body started fighting the toxin immediately.
  • In the 2006 Robin Hood series, a second season episode has the town being poisoned by the Sheriff. Once the heroes know what the origin of the poison is, Little John realizes the cure is giving the people the dangerous herb belladonna, a.k.a. Nightshade.
  • The Sledge Hammer! episode "They Call Me Mr. Trunk" has the entire police station contaminated by a stolen bioweapon... only for the perpetually angry Da Chief to realize he's unaffected. Turns out high blood pressure kills the disease.

    Video Games 
  • League of Legends features a character-specific example: Gangplank's "Remove Scurvy" ability has him eat an orange, which heals himself and — perhaps more importantly — instantly cleanses himself of any form of crowd control. The game's lore has been inconsistent as to whether they're magical in any way, but regardless, it's become widely accepted by fans that a normal orange is absolutely enough to trump whatever magical, reality-warping debuffs come your way.
  • The Lamasu coming in Might and Magic: Heroes 6 will have some sort of a poison or disease effect - with them themselves being a result of failed experiments on manticores, then made undead by the necromancers to counter the short lifespan and fragility of living results. The poison effect will persist through a battle, but be cured as soon as the battle ends. The Hand Wave given by the developers? The soldiers need to just take a short nap to be cured. Also counts as an Universal Poison, as it can affect various breeds of demons, humans, and hybrids (acting as greenskin) alike.
  • Brewing alchemical potions is a useful skill in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but if you don't have a potion, you can sometimes improve your health by ingesting one of the ingredients from that potion. It's not as effective as the potion itself, but in a pinch it will help. The trope comes in when you look at the list of ingredients which qualify for this, and realize that you can improve your health by snacking on things like butterfly wings, swamp fungal pods, and the eyes of sabre cats.
  • Klonoa Heroes: Densetsu no Star Medal: The poison inflicted by enemies can be cured in a few ways, including to feed the poisoned party member vegetable juice.

    Web Original 
  • In Strong Bad Email, "unnatural" Bubs is turned giant, presumably by the chicken wings he's been eating. Strong Sad comes to the conclusion that they need to change him back to normal by feeding him kashi, which is apparently the culinary opposite of chicken wings, and it actually works. But then it turns out the chicken wings weren't what made him giant, making the antidote even more improbable.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The cure for Sokka and Katara's illness is to suck on frozen wood frogs.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Trouble on the Half Shell", Skumm and Greedly discover that the toxic waste Skumm brought along has size-enhancing properties. However, it wears off in a minute or so after the being exposed to it eats something normal (in the rats' case, Wheeler's leftover pizza).
  • Many of the antidotes for effects brought on by the powers of Stitch's cousins in Lilo & Stitch: The Series fit this trope, along with Weaksauce Weakness. For example:
    • Mud is the only stuff capable of dissolving a sticky substance whose purpose is to bind incompatible individuals created by Experiment 251, the flimsiest reason given by Jumba being that mud is found nowhere in the galaxy other than Earth.
    • Experiment 323 is essentially a Love Potion bird that makes whomever it pecks fall in love with the first person they see. The effects are reversed by being sprayed with water.
    • Angel, Stitch's Love Interest and initial Femme Fatale can turn experiments evil by singing a song until they hear it backwards.
  • A variation occurs in The Secret Show, where the entire population of Helsinki is forced to hate Victor Volt and Anita Knight, the protagonists. The cure? A batch of chocolate chip cookies Professor Professor made that turn a consumer's head into a balloon for a maximum of 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 10 seconds.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, several episodes show that entering the Realm of Magic very rapidly causes amnesia, and eventual loss of personality if you stay too long. In the series finale "Cleaved", it's revealed that there's an antidote to this: pudding. It turns out that Glossaryck, who's effectively the god of magic, being obsessed with the stuff was more than just a running gag after all.

    Real Life 
  • Warfarin is a substance used as a rat poison. The antidote is vitamin K, commonly found in all fruits and vegetables, but parsley has the highest content-per-weight. So, parsley is the antidote for rat poison. Warfarin is also used as an anticoagulant, and people who consume warfarin for this reason are told to stay away from vitamin K-rich foodstuffs. The reason warfarin is a rat poison is because it's an anticoagulant; it basically makes the rats bleed to death.
  • Atropine (from deadly nightshade) is a lethal poison but is also the antidote for nerve gases such as tabun. The reason for this is that they affect the nervous system in opposite ways, so they cancel each other out.
    • Neither of them is good for you, anyway, and contrary to the way it's depicted on-screen someone who's been exposed to nerve gas and atropine is likely to have severe neurological damage. This is better than someone who's been exposed to nerve gas alone — who is usually just dead — but not by much.
    • Atropine is also used for patients suffering from bradycardia (dangerously low heart rate), due to the fact that it causes the heart to race like mad. One potential negative side effect to administering it to someone suffering from nerve toxin poisoning is that you might just give them a heart attack instead. But then again, nerve toxin.
  • Ethylene glycol (frequently used as antifreeze) is moderately toxic. Its toxicity is mostly due to its metabolites, so the treatment is to saturate the enzyme that breaks it down with ethanol. Usually, it's administered intravenously, but if necessary it can be administered orally (as vodka, whiskey, or another strong spirit). Methanol poisoning is treated in a similar way for similar reasons.
  • Under certain circumstances, alcohol can be a quite effective treatment for radiation poisoning. While not an actual antidote, the alcohol molecules bind the particles of a certain isotope that then leaves the body along with the alcohol via digestion. It works on the same principle as iodine tablets, but when you don't have any at hand, strong vodka will also reduce the effects to some degree. In the wake of the Chernobyl meltdown, vodka fortified with iodine and sold under, among other names, Doktor Vodka became very popular among those who lived near the plant.
  • Alcohol and caffeine are both used to purge tritium (radioactive hydrogen) contamination because they are diuretics. At least one lab working with tritium used to keep a can of beer in a lab fridge labelled "tritium decontamination kit". When they were found to not be properly containing the tritium, they might have gotten off with a stern warning if not for this joke, which the inspectors considered to be in poor taste.note 
  • Before the discovery of vitamins, fresh foods (especially citrus) were a cure for scurvy and other deficiencies often found in sailors. How bizarre this appeared to the people of the time can't be overstated. Today scurvy is a bit of a joke, but at the time it was a terrifying, horrible way to die, bleeding from every orifice, and nobody knew how to stop it. And then the solution turns out to be lemon juice (or oranges, or limes, but lemons have the highest vitamin-C-per-volume). It's a bit like finding out you can cure ebola by eating blueberry muffins. It was so insane that while James Lind discovered and published the cure in 1753, the British Royal Navy didn't actually start carrying citrus on their ships until just before 1800. In fact, the discovery of how to cure/prevent scurvy was discovered at least three times in Europe alone but lost simply because people didn't understand it. For centuries, it was thought to be caused by a lack of exercise and hygiene rather than having to do with a person's diet; it wasn't conclusively accepted as being a dietary deficiency until the 20th Century.
  • Strychnine is a well-known (and fairly dramatic) poison famously used in The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. Curare was once used to make poisoned arrows and darts that caused almost instant paralysis. But the effects of the poisons are opposite so that either one can act as the other's antidote.


Video Example(s):


Star vs. the Forces of Evil

It turns out that pudding immunizes you from the mind-numbing effects of the Realm of Magic.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ImprobableAntidote

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