“The Apothecary Diaries”: Is the White Powder Poison? How did Mao Mao Discover Its True Nature, and in Which Episode Does It Appear?


In this article, we’ll explore the episode about the poisoned white powder from “The Apothecary Diaries,” revealing some spoilers along the way. The story follows Mao Mao, the protagonist who was kidnapped and sold to the inner palace, where she uses her knowledge of medicine to solve mysteries. We’ll cover an overview of “The Apothecary Diaries,” its synopsis, and delve into the episode about the poisoned white powder. Additionally, we’ll address questions such as “What is the true nature of the white powder?” and “In which episode does it appear?” while summarizing why Mao Mao suspected it was poison.

What is “The Apothecary Diaries”?

Overview of “The Apothecary Diaries”

Before addressing questions like “Is the white powder poison?” and “In which episode does it appear?”, let’s introduce some basic information about “The Apothecary Diaries.” Originating as a novel series that began serialization in 2011, the book versions have been published since 2012. A manga adaptation has been in publication since 2017 and won first place in the “Next Manga Awards” in 2019.

Synopsis of “The Apothecary Diaries”

The protagonist of “The Apothecary Diaries” is Mao Mao. She worked in a flower district as an apothecary but was kidnapped while gathering medicinal herbs and sold as a lower-ranking female official to the inner palace. Despite trying to keep a low profile, she discerned the truth behind the illness of a high-ranking consort and caught the favor of Empress Dowager Yuē, leading to her appointment as a maid. Mao Mao’s inquisitive nature leads her to joyfully test poisons on herself.

Is the White Powder in “The Apothecary Diaries” Poison? Is There a Real-Life Basis?

Now, let’s address the questions, “Is the white powder poison?” and “In which episode does it appear?” Mao Mao, known for her calm and composed demeanor, showed unexpected behavior towards the senior consort’s maids. We will also explore whether there is a real-life basis for the “white powder incident.”

In Which Episodes Does the White Powder Episode Appear?

The episode involving the white powder in “The Apothecary Diaries” is featured in “Novel Volume 1, Chapter 2” and “Manga Volume 1, Chapter 1.” In the anime, Mao Mao realizes the true nature of the white powder in the first episode, but the maids of Consort Li Hua initially ignore her. Later, in Episode 4, Mao Mao takes care of Consort Li Hua and scolds the maids who do not understand the poison.

Spoilers of the White Powder Episode

  • Spoiler #1: Imperial Doctor Visiting Consorts Li Hua and Yuē

In “The Apothecary Diaries,” there’s an imperial doctor named Guyen who often visits Consorts Li Hua and Yuē. Guyen, being the only doctor in the inner palace but of mediocre skill, is privately called a “quack” by Mao Mao. It was discovered that he had been attending to the illnesses of “Consort Yuē’s daughter” and “Consort Li Hua and her son,” who were suffering from headaches and nausea, leading to rumors of a curse in the inner palace.

  • Spoiler #2: Rumors of the Emperor’s Children Dying Due to a Curse

The Emperor in “The Apothecary Diaries,” who is the brother of an imperial eunuch named Ren, lost a son and two daughters in the past. Rumors circulated that “the Emperor’s children died due to a curse.” However, Mao Mao dismissed these rumors upon hearing them. Since the imperial succession is male-dominated in this world, Mao Mao reasoned that cursing Consort Yuē’s daughter, who can’t inherit the throne, would be pointless. Also, the possibility of poisoning by high-ranking consorts was negated when Consort Yuē’s daughter fell ill.

  • Spoiler #3: Mao Mao Deduces the White Powder as Poison from Consort Li Hua’s Condition

Consort Li Hua, having borne a son, furiously accused Consort Yuē of cursing her, causing a commotion on the streets. Mao Mao, who happened to be there, witnessed Consort Li Hua’s ghastly pale complexion and deduced that poisoned white powder was the cause. While Mao Mao usually avoided trouble, she wrote down the truth on a paper to inform anonymously, but the paper was discarded by Consort Li Hua’s maids, and her child eventually died. Consort Yuē stopped using the white powder after heeding Mao Mao’s warning, and her daughter’s health improved. Later, Ren realized that Mao Mao was the one who gave the warning, leading to her appointment as Consort Yuē’s poison taster.

Despite her reluctance to stand out, Mao Mao was initially hesitant to become Consort Yuē’s maid. However, her strong curiosity about poisons made her pleased to learn that her role involved testing for poisons. Later, when Consort Li Hua continued using the white powder and became severely weakened, Mao Mao was ordered by the Emperor to cure her.

Consort Li Hua’s maids believed that luxurious meals would improve her health, but these were difficult for the ailing consort to digest. Despite initial resistance, with Ren’s help, Mao Mao was able to change her diet to more digestible food. Furthermore, although the use of the poisonous white powder was banned in the inner palace, one of Consort Li Hua’s maids continued using it, infuriating Mao Mao when she saw Consort Li Hua’s pale skin.

The maid continued using the white powder to preserve Consort Li Hua’s beauty, but Mao Mao angrily rebuked her, questioning who would want to use something that harmed their own child. Mao Mao continued to care for Consort Li Hua, who eventually recovered enough to walk unaided. Grateful to Mao Mao, her lifesaver, Consort Li Hua gifted her a hairpin during a garden party.

The Real-Life Basis of the White Powder Incident

The white powder episode in “The Apothecary Diaries” is believed to be based on historical cases of chronic lead poisoning. In Japan, white powder became popularized from the Edo period, with lead being a common ingredient at the time. However, Kabuki actors who used this lead-based white powder developed lead poisoning, leading to the discovery of its toxic nature. Subsequently, the manufacturing of lead-based white powder was banned, and safer alternatives that met safety standards began to be sold.

Why Mao Mao Realized the White Powder was Poison

After exploring the questions about the white powder, let’s explain why Mao Mao suspected it was poison. “The Apothecary Diaries” is often praised for its intriguing mysteries solved by the knowledgeable Mao Mao. We will also summarize information about Mao Mao’s adoptive father.

Reason #1: Mao Mao’s Adoptive Father was an Imperial Doctor

Hanramen, the adoptive father of Mao Mao in “The Apothecary Diaries,” was an imperial doctor in the inner palace before the story begins. He was punished for causing the death of a newly born prince, resulting in a disability that left him unable to walk properly. He now runs an apothecary in the flower district. Although Mao Mao’s biological father is a high-ranking military official, Hanramen became her adoptive father due to certain circumstances.

Mao Mao assisted in her adoptive father’s apothecary, gaining extensive knowledge about medicines and poisons. She does not believe in occult-like curses and deduced the poison based on Consort Li Hua’s complexion and behavior. Her eccentric willingness to test poisons on herself also helped her notice something was amiss with Consort Li Hua.

Reason #2: Deaths of Courtesans Linked to White Powder

Mao Mao, having worked as an apothecary in the flower district, was seen as a younger sister by the courtesans in the brothel. Some courtesans who used high-quality white powder had died, which had given Mao Mao knowledge about the poison in the white powder. Despite its ban, courtesans continued using it for beauty, leading to further deaths even after the prohibition.

Summary of the White Powder Incident in “The Apothecary Diaries”

This article has summarized the questions about the white powder episode: “In which episode does it appear?” and “Why did Mao Mao realize it was poison?” Although Mao Mao usually avoided trouble, her realization about the poison in the white powder led to her becoming Consort Yuē’s poison taster. Additionally, her favor with Consort Li Hua has piqued interest in the story’s future developments. Even those who haven’t watched “The Apothecary Diaries” yet may find this article a helpful guide to understanding and enjoying the series.

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