The wolfsbane plant has the highest concentration of poison of all plants growing in Europe. This concentration is only exceeded by another species of the same genus, the Aconitum Ferox wall of Nepal, which contains what is regarded to be the most active vegetal poison in the world. Only four grams of the roots of the latter are enough to kill an adult individual.
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Since ancient times, the wolfsbane plant has been used to poison arrows and kill criminals. In the 18th century, the Austrian physician, Stoerk, began to use this plant to treat neuralgic aches.
Wolfsbane Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Aconite, friar’s cap, mousebane, monkshood.
- French: Aconit, napel.
- Spanish: Aconito, matalobos.
- Environment: Mountainous and humid lands all over Europe and America, especially in the North. Despite its high toxicity, it is grown worldwide as an ornamental plant.
- Description: Herbaceous plant of the Ranunculaceae family, growing up from 50 to 150 cm high. Its flowers are beautiful, helmet-shaped, and they may be dark-blue, yellow, or white. Its root is a turnip-shaped tuber.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: Root.
Healing Properties Uses and Warning
The entire plant, especially its roots, contains potent alkaloids (aconitine and napelline) and flavonoid glycosides, resins, starch, and mannitol. This plant’s most important active ingredient is aconitine, a powerful anesthetic of sensitive nerve endings, which is also a febrifuge and antitussive.
The wolfsbane plant is used internally and externally to ease chronic neuralgic pains, especially those of the trigeminal nerve, which affects the face and the sciatic nerve. It has also been used as a substitute for morphine to cure drug addiction. The active elements of wolfsbane are potent substances that, when correctly used, produce beneficial medicinal effects. Wolfsbane is one of those plants that heal but also kill.
WARNING! Young wolfsbane (when it is starting to grow) contains lower amounts of toxic substances. However, when the plant reaches maturity, it becomes highly poisonous. In some gardens, the wolfsbane plant is grown as an ornament. Prolonged contact with the plant may be dangerous. There have been cases of intoxication with children who held wolfsbane bouquets in their hands for some time. When applied externally, it should not be forgotten that aconitine is also absorbed through the skin, so there may be risk of poisoning even with external use. No more than three daily applications may be given.
Symptoms. Ten to Twenty minutes after its intake, there is a sensation of irritation or tingling in the mouth, hands, and feet, which soon will spread to the whole body, along with abundant sweating and shivering. Then vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea appear. If the toxicity is severe, there are alterations of respiration and heartbeat, which give way to heart and breathing failure, followed by death.
First aid. Immediately induce vomiting. Gastric lavage is recommended, then give the patient charcoal and quick-acting laxatives. The victim must directly be taken to the hospital for admission into an intensive care unit.
How to use Wolfsbane
The wolfsbane plant must always be used under a physician’s supervision, using laboratory products that can be carefully measured to know their exact contents of aconitine. The following pharmaceutical preparations can be used.
- Root powder. In a maximum dose of 0.4 g daily, distributed over several intakes.
- Alcoholic extract at a 1/10 ratio—maximum of six drops per day.
- Hydroalcoholic extract, which is presented in the form of pills, and whose maximum dose cannot exceed 0.10 g daily.
- Lotions with the alcoholic tincture.
- Creams and ointments made from the hydroalcoholic extract. These are applied massaging over the painful area.
REFERENCES George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 148, 149. Print.
Last update on 2023-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API