Flesh-Eating Horror

Since Friday October 31st is All Hallows’ Eve, commonly call Halloween, I thought someMH900309567 extra horror was in order today. I won’t bore you with what you already know about Halloween: that it’s the eve of All Saints’ Day in many Christian religions and historically is the Festival of the Dead with deep pagan roots.

In modern times, however, Halloween has evolved into a MH900078788day and night of fun and festivities in which the more outrageous and ridiculous wins over anything normal and real. Most popular in recent years are zombie festivals to celebrate Halloween with a healthy dose of flesh-eating creatures, and the costumes are enough to scare the most jaded.

But with a clinical pharmacy background and having dealt with many unusual bacterial infections in my career, I know that there are real flesh-eating creatures outMH900442485 there that can put a zombie wannabe to shame.

The real horror story is that flesh-eating bacteria exist and cases are definitely on the rise. Medical professionals attribute the increase to two important issues: better diagnostic tools that more accurately identify the culprits and the failure of standard antibiotic therapies due to resistant strains.

About 750 people each year suffer from such infectious attacks and one in five die as a result. That’s a 20% death rate! The odds that you could outrun a zombie would be better than escaping these deadly bacteria once they get under your skin.

So what are flesh-eating bacteria and how do they attack? Medically, the disease is known as necrotizing fasciitis, a relatively rare infection of the deeper layers of skin and the tissue that lies underneath (the subcutaneous tissue).

Once the offending bacteria invade subcutaneous tissue, they spread easily throughout the layers and cause irreversible tissue damage.

But the term “flesh-eating” is a misnomer because bacteria don’t actually eat flesh. Instead, they cause destruction by releasing toxins that destroy skin and muscle tissue. The bacteria attack by entering through a scratch or cut. Without that entry spot, these bacteria usually remain harmless. But give them an opening to underlying tissue and they can be deadly.

Patients often experience flu-like symptoms initially, and this can delay proper diagnosis. Progression to localized pain, swelling, a purplish discoloration, scaling and peeling of the skin usually signal the patient and caregiver that something more serious is going on—and that’s when it’s almost too late.

MH900403705Early initiation of potent antibiotic therapy is crucial to prevent the spread of infection to surrounding tissue, but it can take less than 24 hours for these bacteria to invade and produce deadly toxins. So vital muscle tissue is often destroyed well before the disease is even identified.

When the infectious process gets to that point, the only sure treatment is removal of the infected area to prevent toxin migration into surrounding skin and muscle. When the infection spreads to large muscle areas, amputation is sometimes the only option remaining to prevent further spreading into healthy tissue.

Several types of bacteria are considered flesh-eating entities. Surprisingly, the most common are those that ARE the most common, and that’s where the real horror lies.

Staphylococcus aureus—the simple bacterium that causes pimples, boils and abscesses—can be quite aggressive and deadly. The medical community is becoming more and more concerned about these bacteria because a certain type, the Methicillin-resistant Staph A (MRSA), is resistant to most antibiotics and few new antibiotics are effective against this strain.

Group A Streptococcus, the bacteria that cause strep throat are the next most commonMH900444666 flesh-eating bacteria and they can be as deadly as Staph aureus.

So when we’re thinking of all the ghouls and goblins that show up on Halloween, you might think about taking a closer look at your skin to see the real ghouls of nature and, like a vampire, don’t invite them in.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, CRE, Drug Resistant Bacteria, Flesh Eating Bacteria, Halloween Blog, Lethal Bacteria, MRSA, Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria, Necrotizing Fasciitis, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, The Practice of Pharmacy, Zombie Wannabe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pharmaceuticals and Gambling Addictions

One of the more important lessons writers learn as they define and refine the art of writingwriters-block is that the flaws in the characters they create are what make those characters more interesting to the reader. And those particular character flaws contribute significantly to the conflict that arises when characters act as they do in perilous situations.

I often use pharmaceuticals as lethal weapons in my writing. What if those Prescription-Drugspharmaceutical substances, instead, created a specific character flaw that caused the character to act in a lethal manner? Would the drug be considered a weapon of murder or simply an instrument that creates the murderer?

The other day I came across an interesting medical report called “Medication Lotto: Can a Drug Cause a Gambling Addiction?” That article made me think about behavior-altering drugs and, more specifically, the behavior-altering SIDE EFFECTS of drugs.

The article reported that an elderly man was brought in for evaluation after familyth members were concerned when the man suddenly developed a new passion in his life. He was spending much of his time in a nearby gambling casino and had lost much of his retirement savings as a result of his gambling addiction.

Upon evaluation of the man’s medical history, it was discovered that he suffered from depression and Parkinson’s disease. An astute doctor focused on the dopamine agonist medications that were being used to treat these conditions.

Dopamine agonists stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain. The end result includes mood shifts and decreases in the abnormal reflex action associated with diseases like Parkinsonism and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).

In controlled studies, it was found that almost 20% of patients with Parkinson’s disease who were treated with a dopamine agonist drug developed compulsive behavior side effects, such as gambling addiction and hypersexuality.

Similar compulsive disorder side effects were seen in studies of drugs used to treat MH900337301depression and bipolar disorder. Because Restless Leg Syndrome is a neurological disease, the drugs used to treat this condition are similar to Parkinson’s drugs (dopamine agonists). A Mayo Clinic study discovered that a relatively large number of patients with RLS developed compulsive gambling habits and other compulsive disorders, such as shopping addictions or compulsive eating, when taking drugs for RLS.

These reports got my creative juices flowing and almost put my brain on overload as I thought about what interesting plot twists I could create using a similar drug to spice up a storyline with a character who develops a compulsive gambling, shopping or binge-eating habit as a result of being treated with a dopamine agonist drug for depression, Parkinson’s disease or RLS.

There also have been some dramatic and expensive lawsuits filed against drugmock-trial-2-4-24 manufacturers from patients who have lost their life savings because of the gambling addiction side effects of these drugs. One such lawsuit resulted in an $8.2 million judgment against the drug developer for failing to provide adequate warnings of the potential risks in taking a particular drug.

Although a number of patient lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers and not against the prescribing physicians for these financially devastating side effects, future lawsuits will likely include the prescribing physicians. And that idea could create another very interesting plot twist.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A New Drug Abuse Threat, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, About Writing, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Character Development Techniques, Characteristics of Killing, Creating Unique and Interesting Character Flaws, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Drug Induced Compulsive Disorders, Drug Induced Gambling Addiction, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Fictional Character Development, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Pharmaceutical Side Effects and Compulsive Behavior, Pharmaceuticals and Gambling Addiction, Pharmaceuticals to Create Character Flaws, Plotting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bee Venom Kills HIV

In the past two weeks I’ve presented blogs on various drug resistant bacteria. The first was MH900407492about “Super Bugs” and another about “Deadly CRE”. These hardy bacteria are a growing concern worldwide since they have the ability to evolve to a point that traditional antibiotics are no longer ineffective against them.

The same type of drug-resistance, unfortunately, occurs with viruses. It happens with viruses that cause the common cold, flu viruses and other more deadly viruses.

The good news is that research scientists at the Washington University School of MedicineMH900438018 in St. Louis, Missouri have discovered a new, innovative approach to viral infections, even resistant ones—It’s Bee Venom!

Scientists have found a key ingredient in bee venom that destroys HIV without harming surrounding cells. The bee venom compound is named mellitin, and researchers have loaded the toxin on nanoparticles structured with bumpers (think of cogs or gears on a wheel).

Normal cells bounce off of these nanoparticles because they’re too large to get caught MH900391212between the bumpers. The HIV virus, however, is small enough to fit between the bumpers and make contact with the surface of these nanoparticles. And that’s where the bee venom (mellitin) is placed.

The mellitin fuses with the viral shell, called the viral envelope, and causes it to rupture; thus, it renders the virus inactive.

The difference between this technique and existing anti-HIV drugs is that those drugs don’t prevent the initial infection. Their mechanism of action is to inhibit the viruses’ ability to replicate. Eventually that mechanism becomes inactive because viruses are as smart as bacteria and evolve to evade the drug’s lethal action.

Mellitin is a much different approach in that this venom attacks the inherent structure of the virus. In effect, mellitin pokes holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV.

Although in the early stages of development, the implications for treatment are phenomenal. Therapies could be developed for drug-resistant HIV infections. These remedies could be delivered intravenously to potentiallyMH900448470 clear HIV from a patient’s blood. And the venom-infused nanoparticles could be added to topical (vaginal, anal, etc) gels to prevent the initial infection during exposure.

But the news gets even better! Scientists believe that the bee venom could possibly be effective against other viruses—since the majority of them are minute particles that fit between the nanoparticle bumpers. Since mellitin attacks double-layered membranes (such as the viral protective envelopes) indiscriminately, other viruses could be killed in a similar fashion with this potent bee venom.

That means we may be on the verge of actually killing common as well as lethal viruses. Researchers state that the nanoparticles are easy to make and enough bee venom could be extracted to begin clinical trials in the near future.

The only limiting factor would be obtaining enough bee venom to mass-produce the therapy because bee populations are declining around the world. One study suggests that the US and UK have lost a third of their honeybee population since 2010 and that the die-off is spreading to other highly populated countries, including China and India, in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Barring a shortage of bee venom, however, the implications of this new medical MH900448461approach are that other viral infections—such as Hepatitis B and C, the common cold, flu viruses and possibly even Ebola—could be treated with venom-loaded nanoparticles in much the same way that we cure bacterial infections with antibiotics.

Thought? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Bee Venom, Bee Venom Research, Bee Venom Therapy, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Curing HIV with Bee Venom, Curing HIV with Mellitin, Curing Viral Infections, Curing Virus Infections, Cutting Edge Medical Research On Virus Cures, Drug Resistant Viruses, Lethal Virus Cure Research, Mellitin, Mellitin Research, Mellitin Therapy, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Potential Viral Infection Cures, Superbug Epidemic, Superbugs, Worldwide Viral Resistance to Drug Therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deadly CRE Invasion!

In last week’s blog I discussed “superbugs”, a term given to bacteria that evolve toMH900439333 become resistant to some of the most commonly-used antibiotics. Drug resistant bacteria are a growing concern among healthcare professionals and the causes are partially related to overuse of antibiotics in our environment.

Today, I’d like to focus on one specific “superbug”—Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE for short. It’s a deadly organism that resists treatment and is on the rise worldwide.

Enterobacteriaceae are microbes from a family of bacteria causing such common ailments as respiratory, intestinal and urinary tract infections.

Carbapenem is an antibiotic that’s been used in the United States since 1985. Bacterial MH900448701resistance occurs when specific bacteria evolve to develop an enzyme that makes them resistant to carbapenem. Such resistant infections are labeled as CRE.

CRE is difficult, and at times impossible, to treat since carbapenem is often the drug of last resort for certain bacterial infections, including e-coli and some pneumonia varieties.

Bacterial resistance to carbapenem was uncommon until about ten years ago. Since that time, there has been a four-fold increase in resistance to treatment. When resistance occurs, there are simply no other antibiotics effective against these infections, and the mortality rate for CRE has been reported as high as 50%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that almost 92% of CRE occursMH900202069 during hospitalization. That makes healthcare institutions the primary focus for prevention.

In 2012, the CDC developed a CRE Tool Kit for healthcare professionals and institutions to provide guidelines for prevention. The top four prevention strategies included hand hygiene (alcohol-based hand rubs), patient contact precautions, education of personnel and the proper use of devices associated with CRE (such as, venous and urinary catheters).

MH900178467When a New York area hospital implemented the CDC’s CRE guidelines, that hospital reduced the occurrence of CRE by 50%. The country of Israel implemented similar guidelines in all of its hospitals and reduced the incidence of CRE by 70% in one year.

CRE is on the rise! The CDC states that it’s propagated by improper hand sanitization, casual contact with affected patients, and the indiscriminant use of medical devices.

The spread takes on regional significance when affected patients receive care in different healthcare settings—such as, transitioning a patient from a hospital to a short-term or long-term care facility. In this way, the patient contaminates several facilities with the same antibiotic-resistant infection.

The simple solution is for healthcare institutions to follow the CDC’s guidelines for hand and device hygiene and to implement proper patient contact precautions.

Although CRE will not be eradicated until new, more effective antibiotics are available, the incidence of CRE could be greatly reduced.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Antibiotic Overuse, Antibiotic Resistance, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, Antibiotics in Agriculture, Blog Trends, Blogging, Carbapenem Resistant Bacteria, CDC Plan to Prevent Superbugs, CRE, CRE Prevention, CRE Tool Kit, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Drug Resistant Bacteria, Drug Resistant Carbapenem Bacteria, Lethal Bacteria, Over-Prescribing of Antibiotics, Patient Therapy Outcomes, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Superbug Epidemic, Superbugs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Super Bugs = Super Killers

We perceive bacterial infections to be little more than a nuisance—with the simple fix ofMH900430501 taking an antibiotic for a few days and then we’re back to feeling one hundred percent. Fortunately, that’s usually the case.

Certain bacteria, however, are resistant to many commonly used antibiotics and that makes these little bugs much more ominous. When infectious bacteria become resistant to treatment, they’re labeled as SUPERBUGS.

The SUPERBUG phenomenon occurs with overuse or improper use of antibiotic therapy. MH900407492Simple infections of the skin, urinary tract, ear and lungs are becoming increasingly more stubborn to cure and often require stronger antibiotics than in the past. Sometimes, the infections require combinations of antibiotic drugs.

New strains of the best-known superbug, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus), are attacking people outside of health care facilities and causing very aggressive infections that are difficult to cure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) estimates that MRSA cause serious infections in over 82,000 patients per year and kill over 11,000 of them. It has been noted that the elderly are the most susceptible to contracting a superbug.

So just how have we allowed these tiny organisms to get stronger and become so difficult to battle? The simple answer is that we’ve saturated our environment with antibiotics, the same amazing drugs that were created to fight bacterial infections. And it’s not just healthcare professionals who are to blame.

While over 7 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for human use each year, over 29MH900144424 million pounds are sold for use in food animals. Experts argue that animal injections or adding antibiotics to feed stock represent a gross overuse of antibiotic drugs and that this makes the drugs less likely to work when we need them to battle infections in the human population.

Bacteria exist in astronomical numbers in our environment. They reproduce rapidly and evolve readily to pass on genetic traits—including antibiotic resistance—to succeeding generations as well as to other bacteria. The more often bacteria encounter antibiotics, the more readily they cultivate hardier versions of themselves capable of overcoming a drug attack.

Researchers tell us that there are several actions that can be taken to minimize bacterial antibiotic resistance:

1) Ask your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic only if it’s absolutely necessary. Inappropriate prescription use for simple coughs and colds are the number one problem area with antibiotic use. Medical professionals estimate that only one in five infections require antibiotics. The great majority of infections are due to viruses, not bacteria, and an antibiotic is ineffective against viruses.

2) When an antibiotic is appropriately prescribed, take all the medication—even if you feel better. In that way, the drug will completely eradicate the offending bacteria rather than merely weakening the organisms.

3) Consider buying meat raised without antibiotic use. Experts agree that fewer antibiotics in food animals will slow the development of resistant bacteria.

4) Use simple soap and water frequently to clean hands rather than an antibacterial soap or cleanser. Just as with animal feeds, the use of antibiotics in cleansers can foster the emergence of resistant bacteria.

Increased casual use of antibiotics is a global phenomenon, and it causes a greater degree of bacterial resistance to available antibiotic therapies.

MH900401001SUPERBUGS are on the rise! The simple solution is to remove indiscriminate use of antibiotics from our environment. That’s a responsibility our government, agricultural and healthcare professionals must shoulder. But we, as individuals, must share some of that responsibility also.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Antibiotic Overuse, Antibiotic Resistance, Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, Antibiotics in Agriculture, Blog Trends, Blogging, CDC Plan to Prevent Superbugs, Drug Resistant Bacteria, Misuse of Drugs, MRSA, Over-Prescribing of Antibiotics, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Prescribing Practices, Superbug Epidemic, Superbugs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mad As A Hatter!

More than 200 years ago, hat making was a profitable business, but it could also be a skull-30511__180deadly one. The furs used to make felt hats were dipped in a preservative made with mercury nitrate solutions. The soaking also helped soften the animal hairs. Unfortunately, the workers in the felt industry constantly absorbed mercury through their skin.

The resulting mercury poisoning exhibited as severe shaking andhatter slurred speech, and this became known as the “Hatter’s Disease.” This condition is believed to have inspired Lewis Carroll to introduce the Mad Hatter character in his work Alice in Wonderland.

Mercury exists in three chemical forms: elemental mercury, methylmercury and mercury compounds. Each has a specific effect on human health.

In the modern world, the methylmercury form is the one that we most fear, is the most toxic and which has been reported extensively as the toxin that is present in many fish.

Because of industrial pollution of our rivers, lake and oceans with mercury-containing fish-234677__180wastes from factories, fish absorb the elemental form and, through a biological process involving the bacteria present in fish, they transform elemental mercury into the more toxic compound known as methylmercury. It’s this toxic component that makes its way up the fish food chain and eventually to our dinner tables.

But there is an even more lethal form of mercury, dimethylmercury, a synthetic (man-made) compound. It’s used in the research industry as a reference material in specialized chemical analysis procedures. Attaching an additional methyl group to methylmercury creates dimethylmercury, and this process transforms a toxic substance into a lethal one, making dimethylmercury an extremely potent neurotoxin.

So, it would seem that we’ve come full circle from the “Hatter’s Disease” of the past to another potentially lethal, present-day mercury toxin. Dimethymercury is part of the laboratory analysis process in some spectroscopy procedures and in 1996 a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, was testing the effects of heavy metals on organisms.

She was using dimethylmercury as a reference material when she accidentally spilled a couple of drops of it on the back of her gloved hand. Despite aggressive therapy, this laboratory worker exhibited severe neurological symptoms, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she died less than 8 months later.

Dimethylmercury is a colorless liquid at room temperature and has a faint sweet smell. It laboratory-313862__180is rapidly absorbed through the skin and a lethal dose has been determined to be less than 0.1ml (about 1-2 drops). The chemical also is absorbed through most plastic and rubber glove materials, so extreme caution is required when handling dimethylmercury.

This chemical is also rapidly and completely absorbed through the GI and respiratory tracts. Since the chemical is highly vaporous (it begins to transform into a gas at warmer room temperatures), poisoning via inhalation or ingestion is especially lethal.

In the recent past, dimethylmercury has been used as the poison of choice in a couple of TV murder mysteries, and with good reason. It is stocked in several types of laboratories, is available for purchase on the Internet and is extremely lethal.

Dimethylmercury is said to be one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man because it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier by combining with the amino acid laboratory-313864__180cysteine. After exposure via the skin, inhalation or ingestion, minute amounts of the chemical begin its slow kill process by affecting the immune system, altering the body’s enzyme systems and irrevocably damaging the nervous system.

The initial symptoms of exposure to this toxic chemical include abdominal pain, progressive and significant weight loss, loss of balance and slurred speech. There is eventual progression, after several months, to a vegetative state and death.

A single exposure to a couple of drops of the pure chemical will cause a person’s mercury level to soar to 80 times the toxic threshold. And aggressive therapies, such as heavy metal chelation, appear to be ineffective in stopping the progression to death.

So if your murder plot allows for a slow but dramatic advancement to death, this toxic chemical might be the perfect murder weapon. But be warned! Have your villain handle the product with heavy-duty neoprene gloves to prevent his or her accidental poisoning in the process.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Contact Poisons, Dimethylmercury, Dimethylmercury is Lethal, Dimethylmercury Poisoning, Dimetnylmercury as a Potent Neurotoxin, Hatter's Disease, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Chemical Poisons, Mercury Poisoning, Murder Weapons, Murder With Dimethylmercury, Murder with Neurotoxins, Neurotoxins, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poisons Used For Murder, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aconite – A two-edged sword!

Many botanical compounds have important medical uses, and some of modern medicine’s most important drug classes were derived initially from plant sources.

narrow_therapeutic_index_ntiHowever, some of these botanical compounds have a very narrow dosage range between a therapeutic effect and toxicity. This tight range of beneficial action is alternately referred to as the Therapeutic Index or the Therapeutic Window.

This concept certainly applies to a very interesting botanical that has been used throughout the ages and is present today in many homeopathic preparations.

Aconite is the usual reference to aconitum, a plant genius that resembles wildaconite_as parsley or horseradish. There are 350 species of aconite that exist around the world, 170 in China alone. Many are found throughout Asia, Africa and Europe; and more than 100 species are found in the temperate climates of both the United States and Canada.

Throughout the ages, aconite alternately has been referred to as monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, devil’s helmet and blue rocket.

In modern homeopathic medicines, aconite is used for general malaise, undefined 2d38865b498b0a2a5ee034f4a057e6b4_nweakness and to stimulate poor circulation. People with numbness in the extremities or poor circulation (as in cold hands and feet) use aconite preparations to stimulate circulation, hence its colloquial reference name of “blue rocket” to the variety that produces beautiful deep blue flowers. In the same way, aconite preparations are used to alleviate joint pain, inflammation and certain skin diseases by stimulating blood circulation throughout the body.

The mechanism of action appears to be the increased production of nitric oxide in the human body. There has been considerable interest recently in nitric oxide supplementation for athletes involved in performance sports to increase their exercise intensity and endurance.

Since aconite is readily absorbed through the skin, topical aconite preparations (liniments, creams and lotions) are available that are used as “counterirritants”, products that stimulate local blood circulation and produce localized warmth to relieve joint pain and the leg pain from sciatica.

However, it should be noted that aconite is a highly poisonous plant and small amounts of the pure plant are highly toxic. So the above-mentioned preparations contain very small, very defined quantities of aconite.

As little as 2mg of pure aconite or one gram of the plant can cause death! Even640px-Aconitum_variegatum_110807f slight contact with the flowers can cause the fingers of one’s hand to become numb—a typical example of the therapeutic effect of aconite progressing to a toxic side effect with excessive exposure.

The therapeutic, as well as the lethal, compound in aconite is aconitine, a toxic alkaloid that generally accounts for about 1.5% of the dry weight of the plant.

Safe dosing of aconite tincture depends on meticulous processing of the plant using everything but the root, and pounding it into a pulp that can be pressed and mixed in alcohol to extract the aconitine alkaloid. Straining and diluting the resulting product will produce the desired homeopathic therapy, and a more concentrated tincture produces an interesting poison if you’re attempting to develop an unusual murder plot idea.

heart2battackSymptoms of aconite poisoning include nausea, vomiting, sweating, breathing difficulties and heart problems. Death usually results from paralysis of the respiratory system or cardiac arrest.

Although aconite can be lethal when applied to the skin, smaller doses are deadly when taken orally, and any oral dose beyond the therapeutic range will cause burning and tingling of the lips, tongue, mouth and throat. Numbness of the throat will follow, with difficulty in speaking, blurred vision and an interesting green-yellow vision distortion.

This last side effect would make for an interesting clue in a murder scene when deciding to use an aconite preparation to kill off a character in your murder mystery.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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