Aconitum, also known as Aconite, is a genus of more than 300 species of flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native to cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
These perennials are tall, upright plants that bloom in summer and autumn. The flowers are showy, hood-shaped and borne mostly in spike-like clusters. Despite its beauty, Aconitum is very poisonous so you have to be careful with it!
The genus name was derived from the Greek word “akónitos”, formed from “ak” (“pointed”) and “kônos” (“cone”), in a reference to the plant’s use as arrow poison.
“Aconite” is the English form of its Greek and Latin name.
The common name “Monkshood” was given because the top of the blossom resembles the monastic head covering.
The other common name, “Wolfsbane”, was given because the shepherds in ancient Greece laced bait and arrows with Aconite to kill wolves.
Aconite represents caution, misanthropy and death, so be careful if you are giving this flower to someone.
Interesting facts about Aconitum
Is Aconite Poisonous?
While the plant has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, consuming can cause all kinds of bad effects. Aconite contains chemicals that may improve circulation, but can also seriously harm your body. All parts of the plant are highly toxic, especially roots and seeds. The ancient Greeks called it the Queen of Poisons.
Benefits and Uses
The plant has been used for centuries as a medicine to reduce fever associated with colds, pneumonia, laryngitis, croup, and asthma. Iz has also been used to treat homeopathy, high blood pressure, neuralgia, rheumatism, migraine and general debilitation.
Aconite has a long history of use as a poison.
In past times, people used Aconite as a weapon to harm other people or animals. It was used in ancient times as a poison on spears and arrows, while in modern times it was used to poison bullets and shrapnel.
The most ancient evidence dates back to the Ancient Egypt. It is believed that Cleopatra may have killed herself with the help of a poisonous cocktail containing Aconite.
The Greeks and Romans also used this plant as a poison. Ancient Romans used this plant as a weapon against the enemy, but also as a method of execution to fulfill the death penalty for convicted criminals. Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, tribune of the people in 121 BC and consul in 111 BC, killed his wifes in sleep by touching their genitalia with his finger, which were smeared with aconite root extracts. The Greeks used this plant as a poison on the arrows when hunting wolves. According to Greek mythology, Aconite dripped from the jaws of Cerberus, the hulking three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld.
In India, the plant is sacred to Shiva, the God of All Poisons. It is believed that the Lepchas, a tribal community of Sikkim, poisoned the water supply of British troops with powdered Aconite during the expedition of 1887.
During World War II, Nazi scientists created aconitine-treated bullets that cause intense suffering.
These facts are very disturbing. However, they are very informative as well and surely cannot harm the beauty of this flower.
Aconitum Plant Data
The flowers come in shades of blue, purple, white, yellow, or even pink.
Aconite is a tall plant that grows from 30 cm (1 ft) to 180 cm (6 ft) high, depending on species.
Aconite will perform best in rich, moist and well drained soil, with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.0.