Wednesday, January 13, 2016


While we will be concerned with hormesis arising from exposure to ionizing radiation, this is only one area where the phenomenon is exhibited. [Luckey's first book, Hormesis with Ionizing Radiation, was initially a survey of various hormetic agents and their effects. When he came to ionizing radiation, there was so much material that his wife convinced him to write the book specifically on that topic. (As is usual in marriage, she had the idea, but he took the credit!)]

Other physical "hormetins" include gravity, pressure, sound, heat, motion, time, magnetism, light, and certain other frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. Each of these - in low amounts - can stimulate the vitality of living organisms but causes harm or death to the organism in much higher dosages. That ionizing radiation does likewise is not the peculiarity; it would be much more unusual if it didn't.

Among the more important chemical hormetic agents are the metal ions (e.g., germanium, mercury, lead, tin and cadmium), oxygen, fluorine, arsenic, and selenium. While our protectors at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would croak if they could detect some of these elements in any quantity whatsoever, they (the trace elements, not the EPA) are necessary for our optimum health and vitality.

Organic chemical hormetins include antibiotics, insecticides, vitamins, certain nutrients, some food additives, many drugs, and free radicals. It should be noted that many hormetic effects are anything but subtle. When crickets were fed 1/100 the fatal dose of the insecticide chlordane, they grew to be twice (!) as large as their unpoisoned cohorts. [Insecticide Hormoligosis, J. Economic Entomology, February 1968. This article, along with Hormoligosis in Pharmacology, J. Am. Medical Assoc., 173: 1960, appear to be part of Luckey's preparation for recognizing effects of radiation hormesis.]

I must tread lightly when it comes to claims of biologic initiators of hormesis - since I have only the vaguest idea of what they are, and virtually no idea of how they act to stimulate the organism. They, however, are known (by other people) to include hormones (naturally,), cytokines, enzyme cofactors, cell maturation compounds, and nerve transmission compounds. These are also known as intra-organismic agents. But wait, there's more...

There are also inter-organismic hormetins, such as pheromones, which are even more confusing - at least to me. And these lead us to the most puzzling agents of all: socio-psychologic factors ... including stress, love, sex, hate, responses to crowding, and fear. One can begin to see why Dr. Luckey's wife advised him to stick to something simple, like hormesis from ionizing radiation.