Dr Kulwant Singh
History & Introduction
It is an extremely powerful and potentially toxic herb with a long history of use. In traditional Chinese medicine, this is considered an effective stimulant for the Spleen and Kidneys, and is a favorite treatment for Malaise, General Weakness, Poor Circulation, Cancer and Heart Diseases. Around the turn of the 19th Century, Finley Ellingword M.D., declared that , “Aconite has become the greatest of the agents used by the profession in control of Fever.” Dr Ellingword also found that it could be extremely useful in the relief of Acute pain and suggests, “Perhaps the most immediate influence obtainable in acute pain is to put 10 drops each of Chloroform and Aconite into the palm of the hand and hold it over the seat of pain for 2-3 minutes.
The effect is instantaneous and marvelous.” This herb can be used to treat either Hypertension or Hypotension depending upon the preparation. According to Potter’s New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, “Aconite has a transient hypertensive activity whereas the herb after heat treatment, has a transient presser activity.” Recent studies have discovered that various Monkshood species have anti-tumor, anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity. The contemporary German Medical Herbalist, Rudolf Fritz Coeirs, M.D., states that “Aconite is still a valuable remedy for genuine Facial Neuralgia. Neurologists continue to say that this is the drug to be tried first. “
Aconite is a genus of plants belonging to natural order Ranunculacae, the Buttercup family, commonly known as Monkshood or Wolfs Bane. Ranunculacae is embracing about 60 species, chiefly natives of the mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere. They are distinguished by having one of the five blue or yellow colored sepals (the posterior one) in the form of a helmet; hence the English name Monkshood. Monks hood has been mentioned in herbals and plant lists since the 10th century. In the past it was often used as an antidote to snake bites. The poison is mainly in the root, although the other plant parts are poisonous too.
The scientific name Aconite is derived from the word AKONTION, meaning dart, as arrows or darts were frequently dipped into its poison. According to Maude Grieve “ 1/50th grain of aconitine will kill a rabbit in few minutes “. The lethal dose for human is only 3 to 6 mg. The name Wolf’s Bane came about in a similar manner. It was believed that arrows dipped in the poison or baits anointed with it would effectively kill wolves. Aconite and Belladonna were said to be the ingredients in the Witch’s “Flying Ointments”. Aconite causes irregular action of heart, and Belladonna produces delirium. These combined symptoms might give a sensation of ‘flying’.
The specific name “Napellus” signifies a little turnip, in allusion to the shape of the roots. The plant is a hardy perennial, with a fleshy, spindle shaped root, pale colored when young but subsequently acquiring a dark brown skin. The stem is about 3 feet high with dark green , glossy leaves, deeply divided in palmate manner and flowers in erect clusters of a dark brown color. The shape of the flower is specially designed to attract and utilize bee visitors, especially the humble bee. The sepals are purple – purple being specially attractive to bees — and are fancifully shaped , one of them being in the form of a hood.
Aconite is one of the deadliest and most rapidly acting poison, yet through Hahnemann’s discoveries it has been transformed into one of the best of the nurseries, Hahnemann published its pathogenesis in 1805, and to him the world is indebted for the knowledge of its therapeutic values. Hughes says that the allopath have caught a glimpse of its virtues from its use by the homoeopaths. Aconite is a short acting remedy. There is hardly any acute disease in which it is not more or less called for. It is one of Clarke’s A,B,C, Nurseries, others being Belladonna and Chamomilla. Aconite causes “turmoil in circulation”, Belladonna “turmoil in brain” and Chamomilla causes “turmoil in temperament”.
It is said to give relief in asthma, with high temperature. Give the drug in small doses, frequently repeated, in acute disease; 3 or 4 times a day in chronic conditions.No remedies surpass aconite and belladonna in the exanthematous diseases, and very frequently no other remedy than aconite will be indicated in scarlatina and measles. Here the hot, dry skin, with vascular excitation, calls for the drug, the temperature falling as soon as the eruption appears, which aconite aids in bringing out. Recent amenorrhoea, due to cold, is amenable to aconite if the circulation and temperature be increased. Disorders of the menopause, with alternate chills and flushes of heat, “with rush of blood to the bead,” cardiac palpitation, dyspnoea, gastric fullness, and sense of distension in the bladder, with frequent attempts to pass urine, are relieved by the usual dose of aconite every half hour (Locke). In uterine hemorrhage, as menorrhagia, with hot, dry face and excited circulation, aconite will relieve. In cardiac diseases, it has been employed with good results when there is palpitation, depending upon irritation; and for heart spasm, with a feeling of suffocation and as if the heart’s action would cease, it is a prompt remedy.
Aconite is one of the first remedies for gastro-intestinal diseases, and especially the bowel troubles of children. All such disorders resulting from cold, or with inflammation, demand aconite as a part of the treatment. In aphthous conditions, with fever, associate it with phytolacca. It relieves gastric irritation, and may be associated with amygdalus, rhus, and ipecac. Diarrhoea, cholera infantum, cholera morbus and acute gastro-intestinal irritation, usually yield to aconite and ipecac; while in dysentery, aconite, associated with ipecac and magnesium sulphate, is very prompt in controlling the disease. It is often indicated in the diarrhoea of teething.