Aconitum ferox

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Indian aconite
Aconitum ferox - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-005.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Aconitum
A. ferox
Binomial name
Aconitum ferox

Aconitum ferox (syn. A. virorum) is a member of the monkshood genus Aconitum of the Ranunculaceae. The common name by which it is most often known in English is Indian Aconite. The plant grows abundantly at Sandakphu, which is the highest point of the Darjeeling Hills in the Indian State of West Bengal.[1]

A tuberous-rooted, herbaceous perennial reaching 1.0 metre tall by 0.5 metres wide and tolerant of many soil types, Aconitum ferox forms the principal source of the Indian poison known variously as bikh, bish, and nabee. It contains large quantities of the extremely toxic alkaloid pseudaconitine (also known as nepaline, after Nepal) and is considered to be the most poisonous plant found in the Himalaya and one of the most poisonous in the world.[2]

The symptoms of poisoning usually appear 45 minutes to an hour after the consumption of a toxic dose and consist of numbness of the mouth and throat and vomiting. Respiration slows and blood pressure synchronously falls to within 30-40 beats per minute and consciousness characteristically remains unclouded until the end, which consists usually of death by asphyxiation, although occasionally of death due to cardiac arrest. [3]

Monier-Williams lists it as one of the definitions of <bhRGga> or Bhringa.

Use as a (potentially lethal) Aghori Entheogen[edit]

Aghori, left-hand path, tantric, Shaivites (devotees of the Hindu deity Shiva) smoke the dried roots of Aconitum ferox, combined in a mixture with cannabis flowers, in a practice that is part consciousness-expansion by entheogen, part ordeal by poison. Aghoris, no strangers to the use of all manner of dangerous drugs (such as Datura metel), warn of the extreme danger posed by smoking mixtures containing aconite, and restrict their use to the most experienced adepts of their particular school of Shaivism, as being potentially lethal.[4] Drug-induced, altered states of consciousness comprise at least three elements : the effects of the drug upon the brain and body, set and setting. Given that Aghori tantrics are charnel ground ascetics who pursue moksha (spiritual liberation) in settings of extreme horror,[5] venerate wrathful deities (principally Bhairava, his consort Bhairavi, Dhumavati and Bagalamukhi) and find in Aconitum ferox a drug with unpleasant somatic effects warning (rightly) of possible death, it is clear that the experience evoked by the smoking of Aconite in such circumstances is likely to be one of dysphoria (albeit dysphoria sought consciously, in pursuit of the deeper euphoria of advaita or realisation of the oneness of all being).[6][7][8]

Medicinal Use[edit]

Not all ayurvedic medicines are safe and the safety of many is still unproven. The potential dangers inherent in the Ayurvedic use of Aconitum ferox form a case in point. In Ayurvedic medicine, the “purified” root tubers are used to treat neuralgia, painful inflammations, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, digestive problems, colic, weak hearts, leprosy, skin afflictions, paralysis, gout, diabetes, fever, and exhaustion (Warrier et al. 1993, 41ff.*). These and other Himalayan species of aconite - such as Aconitum heterophyllum Wall. ex Royle and Aconitum balfourii Stapf - find many uses in Tibetan medicine. The roots are regarded as a remedy for colds and “cold”; the herbage is used to treat ailments resulting from “heat.” In Tibetan medicine, Aconitum ferox is also known as sman-chen, (“great medicine”); the crushed roots, mixed with bezoar stones, are used as a universal antidote. The root is also used to treat malignant tumors (Laufer 1991, 57). The great medicine is also esteemed as a remedy for demonic possession (Aris 1992, 77*). In Nepalese folk medicine, blue aconite is used to treat leprosy, cholera, and rheumatism (Manandhar 1980, 7*).[9]

Lakhvir Singh murder case[edit]

The use of A. ferox as a criminal poison recently gained notoriety in the U.K. as a result of the murder trial of a Ms. Lakhvir Singh, a Sikh woman from Southall (a suburban district of the London Borough of Ealing). Ms.Singh was found guilty of the murder of her ex-lover, 'Lucky' Lakhvinder Cheema and the attempted murder of his fiancée, Gurjeet Choongh with a curry spiked with bikh poison acquired from India. After consuming the poisoned curry, the unfortunate Mr. Cheema began to vomit and over the course of the next hour suffered total paralysis of all four limbs, blindness, a drastic fall in blood pressure and heart failure, leading to his death within an hour of his admission to hospital. Ms. Choongh was more fortunate, having consumed less of the lethal dish, and later recovered, after having been placed in an induced coma.[10]


  1. ^ O'Neill, A. R.; Badola, H.K.; Dhyani, P. P.; Rana, S. K. (2017). "Integrating ethnobiological knowledge into biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Himalayas". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 13 (1): 21. doi:10.1186/s13002-017-0148-9. PMC 5372287. PMID 28356115.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-04. Retrieved 2016-05-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Curry poisoning woman found guilty of murder, BBC News 2010-02-10
  4. ^ The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants : Ethnopharmacology and its Applications, Rätsch, Christian, pub. Park Street Press U.S.A. 2005
  5. ^ Indian doc. focuses on Hindu cannibal sect
  6. ^ Aghori, Varanasi, accessdate = 14-5-2016
  7. ^ Barrett, Ron (2008). Aghor medicine: pollution, death, and healing in northern India. Edition: illustrated. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-25218-7, ISBN 978-0-520-25218-9.
  8. ^ Svoboda, Robert (1986). Aghora: At the Left Hand of God. Brotherhood of Life. ISBN 0-914732-21-8.
  9. ^ Hofmann, Albert; Ratsch, Christian. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. p. 70.
  10. ^