ACONITEAconite plant

Otherwise known as monkshood, tiger’s bane, dog’s bane, wolfsbane, or friar’s cap. It grows in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, Russia, Europe, and Great Britain.

DISTINGUISHING ATTRIBUTES

• Pointed dark glossy leaves

• Turnip like roots

• Helmet shaped dark blue flower (almost purple hue)

• Bitter taste; accidental poisoning is rare due to this bitterness

• The entire plant is poisonous despite claims only the root is

POISONOUS TRAITS

• See effects within an hour

• Its medicinal application in history targeted restlessness, fever, chills, anxiety, pains, vertigo (dizziness), and sleeplessness

• Absorbs through broken skin or open wounds

• Gloves should be worn when handling

• Highly cardiotoxic and neurotoxic

• No cure; manage symptoms until body recover

 

SYMPTOMS OF A POISONING

• Neurological (tingling/prickling/numbness of the face or extremities; muscle weakness)

• Cardiovascular (hypotensive-low blood pressure, chest pains, palpitations-irregular heartbeat)

• Gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain)

HISTORICAL RELEVANCE

• Used by aborigines in far north Pacific Ocean to harpoon whales; tainted spearheads with aconite

• In 1881 a doctor killed his brother-in-law by crushing the plant and placing it in the newly invented capsule shells to mask the taste

• Ancient China rubbed not only the arrow with poison but also the shaft so anyone trying to remove an arrow from a wounded soldier would likewise perish

• Shepherds used raw meat laced with aconite in the killing of wolves

• Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine; boiled before ingestion to decrease the plant’s toxicity

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