Aconite – A Two-Edged Sword!

Many botanical compounds have important medical uses, and some of modern medicine’s most important drugs 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 thataconite_as resembles wild 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. 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 medicine, aconite is used for general malaise, undefined weakness and to stimulate poor circulation. People with 2d38865b498b0a2a5ee034f4a057e6b4_nnumbness 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 cause640px-Aconitum_variegatum_110807f death! Even 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!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, Aconite - A Two-Edged Sword, Aconite and Homeopathic Medicine, Aconite and Murder Mysteries, Aconite as a Medicine, Aconite as a Poison, Aconite Used For Murder, Aconitine Dosing and Usage, Aconitine Toxicity, Aconitum Plant Species, Acute Poisons, All About Murder, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Blue Rocket Plant and Murder, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Chemical Weapons Discussions, Chemicals Used For Murder, Contact Poisons, Deadly Plant Poisons, Designer Poisons Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Devil's Helmet and Murder, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Eating Poisonous Plants, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Leopard's Bane and Murder, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Botanicals, Medical Uses of Aconite, Methods of Murder, Monkshood and Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons, Murder With Drugs, Murder With Poisonous Plants, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Aconite, Poisonous Plants, Poisons and Murder, Poisons Used to Murder, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Weapons, Ways to Murder, Wolf's Bane and Murder, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Aconite – A Two-Edged Sword!

  1. A little information is often dangerous, especially for writers; more info like this will generate even more dangerous murder mystery plots!

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