Aconite is a perennial herb, which can grow up to be as tall as four feet. It is also known as monkshood or wolfsbane. Aconite is a pretty herb with dark green leaves and the helmet-like flowers can be violet, blue, white or mauve in color, depending upon the variety. Though this herb is native to France, Switzerland and Germany it is now cultivated in many gardens all over the world.
There are several myths associated with this herb. Greek legend has it that aconite emanated from the venomous saliva of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gate to the underworld. It is also been called a love poison. It was believed that women who were given aconite from birth could poison others through sexual contact.
But that the plant is toxic is no myth. Its toxicity can be attributed to the presence of poisonous alkaloids such as aconine, aconitine, napelline, picraconitine among others. If taken incorrectly, aconite can cause serious complications. In fact, a small amount is enough to decelerate the heart rate and bring down the blood pressure. It should never be applied to an open wound. Doing so will not only exacerbate the pain but may also lead to loss of consciousness.
But despite its toxicity, aconite has several beneficial medical properties as well. It has many uses in traditional Chinese medicine and in the field of homeopathy. According to homeopathic physicians, liniments which contain the root of the plant as an ingredient can be used to diminish rheumatic and neuralgic pains. It is also known to give relief from fever, skin problems, psychological stress and panic attacks.
Due to its toxic nature, the dose should be prepared only by a trained health professional and care must be taken to consume aconite exactly as prescribed. Another word of caution. The plant bears a strong resemblance to wild parsley, and as such while purchasing or consuming the latter, one must be absolutely certain that it is not aconite.
A biologist, zoologist, scuba-diver, blogger and aspiring herbalist with interest in nature conservation, animal protection, herbal medicine and medicinal plants.