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Botanical Name: Aconitum napellus
Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Synonyms: Monkshood. Blue Rocket. Friar’s Cap. Auld Wife’s Huid.
Common Names: Aconite, Venus’ chariot, Wolfsbane Garden, Monk’s Hood Garden
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Leopard’s bane, Women’s bane, Devil’s helmet, Queen of all Poisons, Caucasian aconite; Downy wolfsbane,Wolfsbane, Helmet Flower, Mourning Bride, Thor’s Hat, Monkshood, Blue Rocket, Friar’s Cap, Auld Wife’s Huid
Habitat : Aconite is native to most of Europe, including Britain, east to N. W. Asia and the Himalayas. It grows on damp shady places and moist rich meadows in southern Wales and south-western England. It is usually found in calcareous soils.
Alkaloid Containing Plant – Found is many colors (blues, whites, yellows, etc.). The plant is a hardy perennial, with a fleshy, spindle-shaped root, palecoloured when young, but subsequently acquiring a dark brown skin. The stem is about 3 feet high, with dark green, glossy leaves, deeply divided in palmate manner and flowers in erect clusters of a dark blue colour. The shape of the flower is specially designed to attract and utilize bee visitors, especially the humble bee. The sepals are purple – purple being specially attractive to bees – and are fancifully shaped, one of them being in the form of a hood. The petals are only represented by the two very curious nectaries within the hood, somewhat in the form of a hammer; the stamens are numerous and lie depressed in a bunch at the mouth of the flower. They are pendulous at first, but rise in succession and place their anthers forward in such a way that a bee visiting the flower for nectar is dusted with the pollen, which he then carries to the next flower he visits and thereby fertilizes the undeveloped fruits, which are in a tuft in the centre of the stamens, each carpel containing a single seed.
In the Anglo-Saxon vocabularies it is called thung, which seems to have been a general name for any very poisonous plant. It was then called Aconite (the English form of its Greek and Latin name), later Wolf’s Bane, the direct translation of the Greek Iycotonum, derived from the idea that arrows tipped with the juice, or baits anointed with it, would kill wolves – the species mentioned by Dioscorides seems to have been Aconitum lycotonum. In the Middle Ages it became Monkshood and Helmet-flower, from the curious shape of the upper sepal overtopping the rest of the flower. This was the ordinary name in Shakespeare’s days.
The generic name is said to have been derived from, a dart, because it was used by barbarous races to poison their arrows, or from akone, cliffy or rocky, because the species grow in rocky glens. Theophrastus, like Pliny, derived the name from Aconae, the supposed place of its origin. The specific name, Napellus, signifies a little turnip, in allusion to the shape of the roots.
This perennial plant grows to about five feet high. It has deeply cut fringed glossy dark green leaves. It produces spikes (racemes) of hooded blue flowers in the summer. Following the flowers are fruits which contain glossy black triangular-shaped seeds. It is one of the ancient herbs. Traditional use of roots as one of the ingredients of witches’ brews in Europe in the Middle Ages. Traditional European folk use of dried roots as a poultice for bruises, rheumatism and snake bites.
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Massing, Woodland garden. Thrives in most soils and in the light shade of trees. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist soil in sun or semi-shade. Plants only thrive in a sunny position if the soil remains moist throughout the growing season. Prefers a calcareous soil. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 7.5. Plants take 2 – 3 years to flower when grown from seed. Grows well in open woodlands. The flowers are very attractive to bees. Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits and deer. Although the plant is a perennial, individual roots only live for one year and die after flowering. Each root produces a number of ‘daughter’ roots before it dies and these can be used for propagating the plant. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby species, especially legumes. An aggregate species which is divided by some botanists into many species. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Suitable for cut flowers.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be stratified and sown in spring but will then be slow to germinate. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Division – best done in spring but it can also be done in autumn. Another report says that division is best carried out in the autumn or late winter because the plants come into growth very early in the year.
Edible Uses : Some reports suggest the root is edible if cooked, but these should be treated with extreme caution due to the highly toxic nature of the plant
There are a number of homeopathic potions and rememdies available that contain small amounts of aconite. The most common use of aconite in small proportions is for the control of fever (humans).
Sudden and intense onset, dry red skin without perspiration, unquenchable thirst for cold water, extreme restlessness, anxiety. In a moderate dose of five minims of the tincture, a sense of numbness and tingling is felt in the tongue and lips, with muscular weakness and depression; by doubling the dose these symptoms are intensified and prolonged, the pulse falls and the breathing is slowed. A poisonous dose causes tingling in the skin, pain in the joints, vertigo, dimness of vision, extreme debility, pulse forty to fifty per minute and irregular, skin cool and moist, burning heat in the esophagus and stomach, nausea, vomiting and purging. There may be severe gastric and intestinal spasms, headache, complete loss of sight, hearing and speech, while consciousness remains; pupils dilated. muscles tremulous or convulsed, pulse imperceptible; death by syncope.
Aconite acts on the vaso-motor nervous system. It is a powerful depressant of the heart, and if given in sufficient quantity will paralyze that organ. Its apparent influence is upon the terminal filaments of the sensory nerves first, and afterwards, more slowly, upon the nerve trunks. It depresses the nerve centers of the cord, and destroys reflex activity and voluntary power.
A drop of a solution of aconite in the eye causes the pupil to contract. Larger amounts induce toxic symptoms, the principal of which are increase of tingling and numbness, excessive perspiration, rapidly lowering temperature, pupillary dilation, dimness of sight, loss of hearing and sense of touch, and diminished action of the sensory filaments supplying the skin.
Muscular weakness is marked; trembling and occasional convulsions may ensue. Excessive depression comes on, and the power of standing is early lost. The feet and legs become. cold, the face pale, and the patient has a tendency to faint. There may be violent burning in the stomach with great thirst and dyspagia, and vomiting and diarrhea may occur. The pulse is weak, rapid, and almost imperceptible; acute, lancinating pain may be felt, and more or less delirium may result, though as a rule the intellect remains unimpaired.
“The manner in which aconite affects the nervous system is not yet definitely known. That it is a heart paralyzer seems to be an accepted fact. Death may result from syncope, though usually it occurs from respiratory paralysis. The action of a lethal dose is rapid, toxic symptoms showing themselves within a few moments.” (Lloyd and Felter.)
Properties: Anodyne, febrifuge, and sedative.
Main Uses: Preparations of aconite are used for external application to the skin to relieve the pain of neuralgia, sciatica, arthritis, gout, rheumatism, measles, nervous fever, and chronic skin problems.
Preparation And Dosages:
Fresh Herb Tincture: (1:4) in 60% alcohol. Take 1 to 5 drops up to 4 times a day.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT:
All parts of aconite plant are poisonous, especially the root tubercles.
Note: contains aconitine, a highly toxic alkaloid. Note: too toxic to take internally. Note: all parts of this plant are very toxic when ingested: death may result. Note: POISONOUS. Note: if this plant is growing in your garden, be sure to wash your hands after handling it. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1820 to 1930. Native to the mountainous regions of Europe. Cultivated as an ornamental in North America. At least three cultivars exist.
If a full toxic dose be taken, the above symptoms advance most rapidly, and no time whatever should be lost in combating the influence of the agent. It has no known physiological antidote. The conditions must be met according to their indications. If there is any reason for believing that the stomach contains any of the agent, large quantities of warm water should be swallowed and immediately evacuated. It may be vomited or siphoned out with a long stomach tube, or pumped out, but extreme nauseating emetics are contra-indicated. A mild infusion of oak bark, drunk freely, serves the double purpose of diluting the aconite and antidoting it by the tannin it contains. Tannic acid is believed to be a chemical antidote to a limited extent, and given in suspension in water is efficient.
The most immediately diffusible stimulants must then be given freely. Alcoholic stimulants, ammonia, capsicum in a hot infusion, and digitalis, strophanthus or atropine by hypodermic injection, or nitro- glycerine are most serviceable remedies. External heat continually and electricity are demanded. Lobelia should prove valuable. A pint of vinegar, diluted, saved one life.
SAFETY IN PREPARED FEEDS:
Any part of this plant should be avoided in feed until more research in done.
Extremely Toxic! Small doses of aconite can cause painful death.
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Known Hazards: The whole plant is highly toxic, acting especially on the nerve centres. At first it stimulates the central and peripheral nervous system and then paralyzes it. Other symptoms of poisoning include a burning sensation on the tongue, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhoea. Simple skin contact with the plant has caused numbness in some people. The root contains 90% more poison than the leaves
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.