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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a Blue Rocket, Monkshood, Wolfsbane
(Aconitum napellus)
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CONTAINS: Some serious alkaloids such as aconitine, aconine, ephedrine and sparteine.

Not so long ago the leaves were collected in June and prepared to form an Extract of Aconite which was employed by the historical medical professionals of the day. It derived the name Wolfbane in ancient times as arrows tipped with the juice of the plant were used to kill wolves. Bait was also set out and poisoned with aconite for the same purpose. (Aconitum lycotonum was most probably the variety used). It was also employed as an arrow poison in warfare. Likewise, as peoples fled in the face of an advancing enemy, water supplies would be poisoned to fell the enemy.
Another undelightful ancient use was employed on the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea. Aconite was administered to old or infirm men who were of no further use to the state.
It was also used in conjunction with belladonna in witchcraft practices as a 'flying' ointment. No doubt the physical symptoms associated with such treatment gave fact to the fiction - psychologically at least.
Unless you have an enemy army advancing on you, it deserves the respect of leaving it alone. Enjoy the flowers and leave it at that.

Under the restrictions of the 1968 Medicines Act, aconite in lotion form must not exceed 1.3 parts of aconite to 100 parts of lotion. To be effective, the therapeutic dose is so close to the toxic level that it should never be used internally and external application should never be done over broken skin. Even application to UNbroken skin can be toxic (and potentially fatal) due to absorption through the skin. Used in homeopathy for illnesses of intense onset (i.e. fever, cold, earache)

PROPAGATION: By offsets from main root in spring. Root lives one year only but offsets provide new stems. Never grow aconite in the flower bed if children have access to it. By touching it they could receive a fatal dose. And when planting it, always wear gloves. The roots and leaves are the most toxic parts of the plants. It also causes livestock poisonings and deaths.
NEEDS: Grown strictly as a garden ornamental. A plant native to rich moist meadlowland of Europe. Prefers shade.
FLOWERS: Usually dark blue on spikes, but a range of color in cultivated varieties.
PART USED: Tuberous root.


In Chinese medicine (Aconitum chinensis is the variety employed in Asia) the root undergoes a special process to detoxify it. The process involves soaking the roots whole in vinegar for one month, followed by a salt water soak for one month. The process is repeated several times. In this prepared form it is sold under the name 'Aconitum praeparata' or FU-ZI.
Aconitum chinensis along with two other varieties are used as stimulant, heart tonic, pain killer, narcotic, mild laxative, local anaesthetic. Also, for colds, chills, vomiting, rheumatoid arthritis, chest pain, stomacheache, loss of appetite and inflammation of the kidney.
The variety A. vulparia is employed as a narcotic.
As it is one of the most toxic of plants, it has been used traditionally in only the most minute of doses. It has been used by professionals to treat facial and trigeminal (fifth cranial nerve supplying face) neuralgia; also, arthritic or gouty pain associated with neuralgia.
Other uses have been to regulate heartbeat, reduce nervous tension and to give temporary relief in Parkinson's disease.
To some degree it has been used in the past for scarlet fever, croup and thrush.
Other uses include sedative (depressant), for gastritis, heart palpitation, and spasm.
It slows the heart and decreases blood pressure, but the problem of therapeutic dose lying so close to toxic levels makes it an ill advised medicine except in the most professional and experienced hands. Since it does not affect the brain, the victim is alert as his body shuts down. It's a gruesome way to die.


Aconite is better known as a homeopathic preparation. Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine wherein the prepared 'medicines' are so treated that none of the original plant or mineral material remains in suspension. It is believed that the special manner of production allows the water of the much diluted remaining liquid to retain the 'memory' of the material it once contained.
Aconite is used by homeopathic professionals to treat sudden chills which are unaccompanied by perspiration (i.e. onset of a virus;) sudden frightful events with psychological implications; tight headache, earache, sinusitis, colds with nasal congestion, sore throat, vomiting due to fear; morning sickness, hoarse dry persistant cough, painful periods, cold feet, nightmares, restless sleep, menopause, and infectious diseases.

(Aconitum carmichaeli)
[cao wu tou]
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CONTAINS: Some serious alkaloids such as aconitine, aconine, ephedrine and sparteine. Also: hypaconitine, mesaconitine, talatizamine, carmichaeline, isotalatizidine, karacoline, monoacetyltalizamine.

Native to China and much used in traditional medicine in both China and Japan. The roots are soaked for a time, then chemically treated and heated at 120ºC for 40 minutes before being sliced and dried. The process hydrolizes the toxins and converts them to the less toxic (but STILL toxic!) benzoylaconines (Medicinal Plants of China - James A. Duke and Edward S. Ayensu).

In Chinese medicine the specially processed root is considered analgesic, cardiotonic, stimulant, and combined with ginger and licorice to treat colds, nausea, and rigor. Combined with cinnamon and licorice, it is used to treat anorexia, arthritis, rheumatism, chest pains, cholera, edema, nephritis, kidney problems with associated back pain, numbness, windchill, spasms in hand and feet, partial paralysis, sciatica, pain of hernia, and uterine cancer. A special preparation with the name Si Ni Tang is made from the plant and combined with ginger and licorice and used to stimulate heart function.

©2000 & 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH