Why You Want to Avoid Aconite

Why You Want to Avoid Aconite

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  • A Shady Past

    A Shady Past

    The herb aconite has long been associated with magic and witchcraft. Harry Potter used it in potions, and in years past it sent “real” witches soaring on their broomsticks… or at least that’s what they thought was happening.

    Aconite is a poison too. Rumor has it that Roman emperor Claudius was murdered with aconite. As recently as 2010, a British woman was convicted of poisoning her former lover with a spicy aconite curry. Knowing all this, would you use aconite for medicinal purposes?

  • A Healthy Poison?

    A Healthy Poison?

    Despite its toxicity, aconite has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, and was used in mainstream Western medicine until the middle of the 20th century.

    Today it can be purchased over the counter at your local chain pharmacy as a homeopathic remedy, for everything from colds to heart disease.

  • Bane of a Wolf’s Life

    Bane of a Wolf’s Life

    Aconite is native to many areas of Europe and Asia. It’s an appealing perennial for the garden, favored for stalks loaded with purple flowers. Each is shaped like the hood of a medieval monk, a characteristic that’s inspired its many other names, including monkshood, friar’s cap, and auld wife’s huid.

    Although there are many varieties of aconite, all are thought to be highly toxic. And all parts of the plant are toxic. It’s also called wolf’s bane because at one time, raw meat laced with aconite was used by shepherds to kill wolves.

  • Poison, Over the Counter

    Poison, Over the Counter

    Aconite products are widely available without a prescription, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. You can purchase aconite root that has been dried and ground as a powder. It’s also available in pellets, tablets, capsules, and as a liquid.

    Many aconite products provide dosage instructions for adults and children. In fact, at least one is marketed specifically for children. It’s described as a “kiddie calmer” and is used to relieve shyness, nervousness, and worry.

  • Conditions


    As with many homeopathic products, claims about the healing power of aconite encompass a wide range of conditions. It’s used to clear out colds, fevers, coughs, and croup, along with headache and even heart disease.

    Other common uses are treating asthma, sciatica, edema, neuralgia, rheumatism, and mumps. It also used for treating shock, fear, and anxiety. Some use it to reduce inflammation, including helping relieve pain caused by teething in babies.

  • About Alkaloids

    About Alkaloids

    Aconite contains alkaloids, which are potent compounds produced primarily by plants. Examples of alkaloids you’re probably already familiar with are caffeine, strychnine, nicotine, and curare.

    Many alkaloids have important medicinal properties and are used to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including migraines, muscle spasms, asthma, and motion sickness. They’re also sometimes used to prevent glaucoma, malaria, bronchitis, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Active Toxins

    Active Toxins

    Aconite contains alkaloids that are cardiotoxins and neurotoxins. These toxins are also present in the venom of certain poisonous snakes, as well as in arsenic, lead, ammonia, and the bacteria responsible for tetanus and botulism.

    Cardiotoxins and neurotoxins work by attacking your cardiovascular and central nervous systems, respectively. When they do this, they interfere with the communication between cells throughout your body. This communication is necessary for your body to function.

  • Symptoms of Aconite Poisoning

    Symptoms of Aconite Poisoning

    Aconite poisoning is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting. You may also experience a burning sensation in your mouth and tongue, as well as difficulty breathing and an irregular heartbeat. People also sometimes report feeling a sensation like legions of ants crawling all over the body.

    Aconite poisoning doesn’t only happen to people who consume it; it can also be absorbed through the skin, or enter the bloodstream via open wounds.

  • How to Treat Poisoning

    How to Treat Poisoning

    There are no known antidotes for aconite poisoning. A review of scientific research on aconite recommends that medical personnel closely monitor vital signs, particularly blood pressure and cardiac rhythm.

    The symptoms of poisoning — including rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and severe abnormalities in heart rhythm — are treated with medications and, in some instances, with cardiopulmonary bypass.

    Never consider using aconite until after you’ve gotten the green light from your doctor. Aconite poisoning can be fatal, so in most cases, you’re probably better off trying another treatment.