Aconite

Common Name of Aconite

Aconite is also known as Mitha zahar, Bish, Nikh, Monkshood, wolf’s-bane, leopard’s bane, mousebane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, queen of poisons, or blue rocket, 

Introduction

  • Among Indian species Aconitum chasmanthum is the chief source of aconite.
  • It is largely used as medicine.
  • It is Perennial plant with deeply cut leaves and long spikes of deep blue color flowers, with on upright downy stalks.
  • The upper sepal of flower resembles a hood or helmet or cowl, hence the common name monkshood.
  • The root is stout and dark, conical and shows scars of broken rootlets, shriveled with longitudinal wrinkles.
  • The root is about 5 to 10 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm thick at upper end.
  • The root may resemble horseradish root. However, horseradish root is cylindrical and pungent.

Toxic Parts of Aconite

  • Root (more toxic)
  • Seeds and Foliage

Toxic Principles of Aconite

  • Aconitine
  • Mesoaconitine
  • Hypoaconitine
  • Pseudoaconitine
  • Ind-aconitine
  • Bikh-aconitine
  • Aconine.

Fatal Dose

  • 1 to 2 gm of root
  • 3 to 5 mg of aconitine

Fatal Period

2 to 6 hours

Mode of Action

  • Aconitine acts on nerve axons by opening sodiumchannels. It also inhibits complete repolarization of the membrane of myocardial tissue causing repetitive firing.
  • It stimulates vagal medullary center.

Metabolism

  • Metabolism of aconitum alkaloids is mainly carried out by the enzyme esterase.
  • Aconitine is converted into benzoyaconine through hydrolysis in C-8 position and into aconine.

Sign and Symptoms

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Salivation
  • Tingling and numbness in mouth and lips
  • Diarrhea
  • Palpitation
  • Weakness
  • Hypotension
  • Ventricular ectopics
  • Arrhythmias
  • Vertigo
  • Blurring of vision, hippus, mydriasis, xanthopsia
  • Convulsions.

Treatment

  • Gastric lavage with activated charcoal
  • Benzodiazepines for convulsions
  • Symptomatic treatment.

Postmortem Findings

  • No specific findings
  • Organs are congested.

Medicolegal Aspects

  • Aconite is considered as near ideal homicidal poison, as it is sweet in taste and can easily be given with pan or other foodstuff.
  • Suicide cases poisoning.
  • Accidental poisoning may occur due to mistaken with horseradish. On cut section, aconite appears pink whereas horseradish appears white.
  • Root used to procure abortion.
  • Arrow poison
  • Cattle poison
  • Aconite gets easily destroyed by decomposition and may not be detected in chemical analysis.