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Monkshood, Aconitum napellus

Monkshood is one of the most poisonous plants in Europe. It has not infrequently been used as a murder weapon in the past. It only takes a few hours for death to set in upon ingestion of the plant.


Why is monkshood so poisonous?

The strong poisonous effect of the plant is due to the content it contains aconitine. The substance is absorbed through the skin as soon as the plant is touched. However, touch is not usually fatal to humans. However, a rash develops, which clearly shows the plant's strong reaction to humans.

Monkshood, Aconitum napellus


Where does monkshood grow?

The poisonous plant is mainly found at higher altitudes from about 2500 meters. It can also occasionally be found in pastures. Its homeland and distribution extends across Central and Western Europe. Some specimens are also native to Sweden. Despite its toxicity, monkshood is one of the popular garden plants and - subject to expert knowledge - is often grown there.

Toxic effect - human

How does monkshood affect people?

As the most poisonous plant in all of Europe, extreme caution is required when handling the plant. Not only in the tubers, but in all parts of the plant contains aconitine, which has a deadly effect on many living beings. Just a few grams of the plant can kill an adult. Children in particular are at risk because even the smallest amount is enough to cause serious damage to their health.

The following symptoms occur:

  • Symptoms begin with tingling sensations in the extremities
  • tingling in the mouth
  • profuse sweating with nausea and vomiting
  • painful intestinal colic, severe diarrhea
  • after 20 minutes, the body temperature drops rapidly
  • after 30 minutes the blood pressure drops, the heartbeat becomes irregular
  • severe poisoning leads to death within 30-45 minutes
  • death occurs from heart failure
Monkshood, Aconitum napellus

Toxic effect - animal

How does monkshood work in animals?

Not only in humans, but also in animals, the ingestion of the plant is life-threatening and fatal if left untreated. The following animals have a toxic reaction to eating the plant.

  • Farm animals such as horses, cows and cattle
  • pigs, sheep
  • Pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and bunnies
  • Pets like cats and dogs
  • all bird species
dog with cat

These symptoms indicate poisoning in the animal:

  • excessive salivation and enlargement of the pupils
  • inner agitation, restlessness, aggressiveness
  • Seizures, increase in body temperature
  • Heartbeat disturbances and beginning paralysis of the face
  • Death occurs from respiratory paralysis

A dog dies with as little as five grams of the plant consumed. Surprisingly, goats do not react with symptoms of poisoning to the consumption of blue monkshood, although they usually do not eat it.

medicinal plant

Application in medicine

Although the plant is so poisonous, it is a popular medicinal plant and is used regularly. Above all, aconitine is used for rheumatic complaints, pleurisy and nerve pain. Homeopaths use the plant for inflammation of the pericardium and bronchitis.

Monkshood, Aconitum napellus

First aid measures

treatment of poisoning

All parts of monkshood are poisonous, so contact and subsequent symptoms should always lead to contact with the doctor. The poison control center should also be notified. To date, there is no antidote to the active ingredient, but death can possibly be prevented with intensive medical care.

The most important measure is to maintain cardiovascular function, artificial respiration may be necessary. Flushing the stomach can also be helpful, and dialysis is sometimes used. Since the plant is extremely poisonous, some sufferers die of heart failure despite medical treatment. The risk of rapid death correlates with the amount of poison ingested.

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