Scientific name: Aconitum napellus
Common names: Aconite, Monkshood, Wolfsbane, Leopard’s Bane, Women’s Bane, Devil’s Helmet, Blue Rocket
Ayurvedic names: Bachnag
Chinese names: Zhi Chuan Wu Tou, Chuan Wu Tou
Bangladesh names: Mitha bish, mitha zahar
Arabic names: البيش (al beesh)
Rain Forest names: n/k
Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercup)
Approximate number of species known: 250
Common parts used: Whole herb, sprouts
Height: Up to 3 feet
Actions: Anodyne, diuretic, cardiotonic, inotropic, chronotropic, analgesic, anaesthetic. Possibly antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antipyretic, antitumor
Known Constituents: Alkaloids (0.2–2%) – aconitine (acetylbenzoylaconine), picraconitine (benzoylaconine), aconine, and napelline (isoaconitine, pseudoaconitine); 12-epidehydronapelline, 12-epiacetyldehydronapelline, 1,14-diacetylneoline, N-deethylaconitine, aconosine, 14-acetylneoline, hokbusine A, senbusine A, senbusine C, mesaconitine, neoline, songoramine; picraconitine (during hydrolysis); aconitic acid, itaconic acid, succinic acid, malonic acid, fructose, maltose, melibiose, mannitol, starch, fat, and resin.
Constituents Explained: n/k
Located in the mountainous regions of central Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, Russia, Germany, Spain, France, a few parts of western England and South Wales.
Main plant has a fleshy, spindle-shaped root similar to the turnip or horseradish. Pale colour when young, turning dark brown thereafter.
Stem is approximately 3 feet high and erect with dark green, glossy leaves, deeply divided in a palmate manner with flowers in erect clusters of a dark blue colour.
Leaves are phylloid with 5-7 segments, 5-10cm in diameter. Each segment has 3 lobes and they have sharp teeth. The leaves are alternate.
Flowers are blue, purple, white, yellow or pink. One of the purple sepals is shaped like a helmet or hood. There are normally 2-10 petals. Bees are attracted to its purple colour.
Root is deadly poisonous because of the alkaloid pseudaconitine. Also contains the poisons mesaconitine, jesaconitine and hypaconitine.
Produces numbness and tingling when in contact with the mouth or skin.
The alkaloid Aconitine (C34H47NO11) is a highly poisonous substance. It creates cardiac arryhtmia and potentially lethal at a rate of 1.5mg.
In ancient Greek mythology aconite was expelled from the mouths of Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Hades. Other superstitions have aconite as the ointment witches used to help them fly away to their eight ‘Wheel of the Year’ festivals.
In the Spanish version of Dracula aconite replaced garlic as the traditional vampire repellent. It also became known as Wolfsbane for its ability to fend off werewolves.
Used in ancient times, Aconite has played a part in Western scientific medicine until the mid 1900’s.
Rarely used internally as medicine in the United States today, but used externally in liniment combinations with Belladonna.
In the past has been ingested medicinally as a cardiac depressant and mild diaphoretic. Also used externally to combat facial neuralgia, sciatica and rheumatism.
Chinese and other Asian species of aconitum are popular for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibiotic, antipyretic and caridotonic actions in medicines used for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic nephritis, sciatica and others.
The value of aconite as a medicine has been more fully realized in modern times, and it is now considered one of society’s most useful drugs.
It is much used in homoeopathy.
However, Aconite is also the world’s deadliest poison.
It is used in Chinese and Ayruvedic medicine in small doses. The Chinese steam it with ginger.
Externally it makes a good anaesthetic; it paralyses and numbs the sensation of pain, touch and temperature. After initial tingling, numbness begins.
When ingested internally it acts as a poison; first by being a sedative. The pulse decreases, the heartbeat slows down, and becomes very irregular. The pulse may then rapidly decrease before someone suffers cardiac arrest.
Any changes in respiration are believed to be due to it acting on the medulla in the brain stem, and not on the lungs themselves. It appears that under poisoning of aconite, cognitive functions remains, but death occurs through cardiac arrest. Respiration will slow, and sweating will take place.
20ml is enough to be toxic, with the recipient experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea. The mouth begins to tingle, go numb and burn.
Occasionally people die by degradation of the respiratory system, not the heart.
Poisoning can occur through external touch of the leaves too. Absorbed through the skin the sap can cause cardiac poisoning.
It is believed the Romans used Aconite to kill or execute criminals, and anyone caught growing it was subject to the death penalty.
Aconite was also the main component of poison-tipped arrows.
Although healthy persons often report on reactions to homeopathically diluted substances, the mechanism behind such reactions remains unclear.
A study examined whether a distinction can be made between the short-term reactions of healthy volunteers to a homeopathically diluted substance – Aconitum napellus C30 – and to a placebo.
From the 33 subjects randomized for this double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 27 could be included in the analysis. The study comprised two 7-day-long treatment periods, each including the intake of a study preparation for 3 days and a wash-out period of 4 days. One group was first treated with Aconitum napellus C30 and then with placebo; the other group received the two study preparations in the reverse order.
The signs and symptoms before the first treatment and after each treatment were collected, evaluated, weighted and repertorized. Based on this classification the blinded physician assessed these signs and symptoms as study outcome parameter to represent the responses to each of the study preparations.
The result of the study yielded statistical significance between the classified reactions towards Aconitum napellus C30 and to placebo. A clear difference between the reported short-term reactions of healthy subjects towards Aconitum napellus C30 and towards placebo was shown. The crossover design with intra-individual comparisons proved to be adequate to recognize the study preparations and for the statistical analysis of a small population sample.
Piltan D, Rist L, Simoes-Wust P, Saller R. “Test of Homeopathic Dilution Of Aconitum Napellus. A Clinical, Randomized, Double-Blinded, Controlled Crossover Study in Healthy Volunteers.” 2009 June. PubMed.gov.