Aconitum napellus

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Aconitum napellus
Plant in flower, Austria
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Aconitum
Species: A. napellus
Binomial name
Aconitum napellus

Aconitum napellus (monkshood, aconite, wolfsbane, fuzi, monk's blood) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Aconitum of the family Ranunculaceae, native and endemic to western and central Europe.

It is an herbaceous perennial plant growing to 1 metre tall, with hairless stems and leaves. The leaves are rounded, 5–10 cm diameter, palmately divided into five to seven deeply lobed segments. The flowers are dark purple to bluish-purple, narrow oblong helmet-shaped, 1–2 cm tall.

Aconite flowers

Plants native to Asia and North America formerly listed as A. napellus are now regarded as separate species.


A. napellus is grown in gardens in temperate zones for their spiky inflorescences that are showy in early-mid summer and their attractive foliage. There are white and rose colored forms in cultivation too. The cultivar 'Spark's Variety' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[1]


Nine subspecies are accepted by the Flora Europaea:

  • Aconitum napellus subsp. napellus. Southwest England.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. corsicum (Gáyer) W.Seitz. Corsica.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. firmum (Rchb.) Gáyer. Central and eastern Europe.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. fissurae (Nyár.) W.Seitz. Balkans to southwest Russia.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. hians (Rchb.) Gáyer. Central Europe.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. lusitanicum Rouy. Southwest Europe.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. superbum (Fritsch) W.Seitz. Western Balkans.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. tauricum (Wulfen) Gáyer. Eastern Alps, southern Carpathians.
  • Aconitum napellus subsp. vulgare (DC.) Rouy & Foucaud. Alps, Pyrenees, northern Spain.


Aconitum napellus is grown in gardens for its attractive spike like inflorescences and showy blue flowers.[2] It is a cut flower crop used for fresh cutting material and sometimes used as dried material. The species has a low natural propagation rate under cultivation and is propagated by seed or by removing offsets that are generated each year from the rootstocks. The use of micropropagation protocols has been studied.[3] This species has been crossed with other Aconitums to produce attractive hybrids for garden use, including Aconitum × cammarum.[4]


Like other species in the genus, A. napellus contains several poisonous compounds, including enough cardiac poison that it was used on spears and arrows for hunting and battle in ancient times.[5] A. napellus has a long history of use as a poison, with cases going back thousands of years.[6] During the ancient Roman period of European history, the plant was often used to eliminate criminals and enemies, and by the end of the period it was banned and anyone growing A. napellus could have been legally sentenced to death.[7] Aconites have been used more recently in murder plots; they contain the chemical alkaloids aconitine, mesaconitine, hypaconitine and jesaconitine, which are highly toxic.[8]

Aconite produced from the roots of a number of different species of Aconitum is used ethnomedically in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), to treat "coldness", general debility, and "Yang deficiency".[citation needed] Misuse of the medicinal ingredients contained in this plant can negatively affect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, thus resulting in death.[9][10][11][12]


  1. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Aconitum 'Spark's Variety'". Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Datta, Subhash Chandra. 1988. Systematic botany. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern Ltd.
  3. ^ A. A. Watad, M. Kochba, A. Nissim and V. Gaba, "Improvement of Aconitum napellus micropropagation by liquid culture on floating membrane rafts", Journal Plant Cell Reports, Publisher: Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, ISSN: 0721-7714 (Print) 1432-203X (online), Issue Volume 14, Number 6 / March 1995, DOI 10.1007/BF00238594, pages 345–348
  4. ^ Armitage, A. M. 2000. Armitage's garden perennials a color encyclopedia. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. Pages 19–20.
  5. ^ J Ethnopharmacol. 1981 Nov;4(3):247-336. Arrow poisons in China. Part II. Aconitum--botany, chemistry, and pharmacology. Bisset NG.
  6. ^ "Toxicology in the Old Testament: Did the High Priest Alcimus Die of Acute Aconitine Poisoning?" Authors: Moog F.P.1; Karenberg A.1 Source: Adverse Drug Reactions & Toxicological Reviews (now known as Toxicological Reviews), Volume 21, Number 3, 2002 , pp. 151–156(6) Publisher: Adis International
  7. ^ Roberts, M. F., and Michael Wink. 1998. Alkaloids biochemistry, ecology, and medicinal applications. New York: Plenum Press. Page 18.
  8. ^ CSA
  9. ^ Just like the misuse of water can cause drowning. Its non-murderous uses by homeopathic medicine are Applying Aconitum as an ointment to the skin will create a pain-relieving numbing sensation. It's used for treating joint pains from rheumatism, lumbago and neuralgia. When Aconitum is processed into a tincture it can be used to slow down the heart rate in cardiac patients. As it slows down the pulse it can also be used to treat nervous ailments. Because of its cooling effect on the internal system it has been used to reduce fevers and treat colds and pneumonia. Source: Fatovich, D M Aconite: a lethal Chinese herb. Citation: Ann-Emerg-Med. 1992 Mar; 21(3): 309-11
  10. ^ Vet Hum Toxicol. 1994 Oct;36(5):452-5.Links Aconitine poisoning due to Chinese herbal medicines: a review. Chan TY, Tomlinson B, Tse LK, Chan JC, Chan WW, Critchley JA
  11. ^ Moritz, Fabienne; Compagnon, Patricia; Kaliszczak, Isabelle Guery; Kaliszczak, Yann; Caliskan, Valérie; Girault, Christophe (2005). "Severe Acute Poisoning with HomemadeAconitum napellusCapsules: Toxicokinetic and Clinical Data". Clinical Toxicology 43 (7): 873–6. doi:10.1080/15563650500357594. PMID 16440517. 
  12. ^ Bonnici, Kathleen; Stanworth, Denise; Monique, SJ Simmonds; Mukherjee, Elora; Ferner, Robin E (2010). "Flowers of Evil". Lancet 376 (9752): 1616. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61059-8. PMID 21056765. 

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