Historically, African tribes used calabar bean, the "ordeal bean," to identify witches and people possessed by evil spirits. They believed that people who were able to eat the bean and live were innocent. Subjects of the "ordeal" could increase their chance of survival by not chewing the bean but, instead, swallowing it whole. Chewing releases the poisons in the bean. Ritual uses continue in Africa despite being outlawed.
As medicine, Calabar bean is used for eye problems, constipation, epilepsy, cholera, and tetanus.
Calabar bean is a source of the prescription drug physostigmine (Isopto Eserine, Antilirium).
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