Thursday, November 6, 2014

Name your poison? How about Aconite

In the 19th century, Aconite was the deadliest poison available. It had been around forever. The Greeks believe it was created by the saliva of the 3 headed Cerberus. 

They called it the Queen of Poison.

It is derived from the leaves and root of the plant Monkshood. It's also called Wolfsbane, Leopard's bane, Woman's bane, Devil's Helmet, Blue Rocket.

It's been used to kill since at least 130 BC. 
African natives used it for the poisoned darts.

So naturally, someone decided to make tinctures or liniments of aconite to relieve sciatica, rheumatism, and neuralgia. However, it's ceased to be a best seller when it became better known that a side effect of using it was DEATH. 

Not surprisingly, some decided to make the side effect it's main purpose. We call that MURDER.

In it's solid form, Aconite is a white powder that requires alcohol or a weak acid to dissolve it.  Thus, if you drink only water at parties, you'll be safe from accidentally being murdered by Aconite.

If you imbibe, you should know only a 1/50th of a grain of Aconite in your drink will kill you. 1/10th of a grain will kill an elephant, although why pachyderm should be drinking alcohol at a party, I haven't a clue. 

Back to the humans at the party:
The poison attacks the nervous system, the cardiac system, and digestive system. Worse yet, it acts quickly.

The first symptoms occur in minutes. You'll feel numbness & tingling of the mouth and throat. You'll feel parched, so sadly you will drink more of your doctored drink. That results in a burning sensation from your throat to your digestive system.

The tingling feelings will spread to your hands and feet, then your entire body. As the nervous system goes into a death spiral, you'll feel as if your skin is being flayed.

Your legs will give way, and your sight and hearing will go, pretty much preventing you from determining exactly who wishes you dead. However, your brain remains functioning, so you are all too aware of your dire state.

Your entire body shuts down. Official cause of death will normally be respiratory failure, but by now the poison has pretty well attacked every organ in your body.

But the good news is that depending on how much poison you consumed, you might only have to endure this for no more than 8 minutes. If you didn't take the extra sip to quench your throat, then it could take four hours of convulsions, skin flaying, unable to move, see or hear, but an active cognizant brain recording everything.

I came upon a site giving advice if you are poisoned. 
1) Don't Panic  (why on earth would we panic, surely by now we have found an antitoxin for aconite, right?)
2) There is no antidote for aconite. (okay, I'm panicking!)
3) Call 911 before you go deaf. 
4) Induce vomiting (Probably should do this while calling 911. While it will gross out the 911 operator, you really need to expunge as much poison as you can.)
5) Have a teaspoon of mustard. (I'll need to hang up on 911 and call around for mustard.)
6) Drink powdered charcoal a teaspoon at a time with water. (Who the hell has powdered charcoal?)
7) Try not to throw up the mustard and charcoal
8)Expect to die in about an hour.
9) Ambulance arrives 1 hour and 5 minutes later.

Admit you are over your head and eat every leaf on your plant, then gnaw the roots so you die in 8 minutes rather than an hour.

Pretty impressive for a plant that grows in my garden.

Oddly, I don't recall it coming with a warning label when I bought it. It's leaves are so pretty. Who would guess they are so deadly.

Generally speaking, I advise against eating anything from my garden.  Right now I have basket ball size mushrooms growing in my front yard. They look like the common white round mushrooms we buy in the store, only a thousand times larger. But I'm leaving it and the Fox Glove alone beside my monkshood.

The mushroom was only about the size of a football when I took this shot. Now it's basketball size.
If you haven't begun my fabulous series, 
The Adventures of Xavier & Vic, 
now is a great time to begin.

The Darkest Days


  1. Great post! I didn't know about this plant. I was guessing Belladonna.

    1. Well, it's in my list of way to kill Victorian people, so I will no doubt report on it in the future.

  2. I'm surprised we don't have an antidote, but this sounds like one powerful poison. Is it traceable? Will they know that it was aconite that did you in? Great post!

    1. I believe they can isolate the molecular footprint of this poison. In addition, it's symptoms are so expansive that I suspectt within a few hours of your being rushed to the hospital, they will confirm you died of Aconite poisoning.

  3. I am still wondering about the drunk elephants at a party... Can they come to my house next? I always learn so much from you! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. I'm pretty sure drunk elephants will not be in any other blog about Aconite, and there are hundreds of them. I am uniquely silly.

  4. Do your handlers know that you're out and about? I can honestly say that even though I think you're a terrific writer, I hope never, ever, ever meet you in person. lol Thanks for the info.

    1. I don't know whether to cry or laugh. I'm really glad you think I'm a terrific writer, but feel bad that I've terrorized you. I promise none of those elephants were harmed by me. I would never let them go to a party where alcohol is being served, never mind aconite. And lots of people have monkshood in their garden. Finally, I've no clue where the giant mushrooms came from.

      I hope that provides you some comfort. I'm really quite harmless. I was just raised by feral cats.

  5. Crap, I have that plant in my front yard too!

    1. Oh dear, I just followed something and discovered a 33 gardener died from monkshood simply by handling the plant without gloves. I don't think garden shops should be selling this plants at all.It's beautiful but it's too dangerous.

  6. Don't chew on the leaves or roots and you'll be safe. I'm pretty sure deer won't eat it...twice..


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