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The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland
Aconitum vulparia [ Plantae: Angiospermae; Eudicots; Ranunculales; Aconiteae; Family: Ranunculaceae: Genus: Aconitum: Aconitum vulparia ]
Wolfsbane, Badger’s Bane, aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard’s bane, women’s bane, Devil’s helmet or blue rocket.
This herbaceous perennial grows naturally in damp woods, in the Northern hemispheres, especially in the Alps where it is an endangered species. It likes moist retentive well drained soil atop mountain meadows with snow melt. It is a plant that produces dark green leaves that lack stipules, are palmate lobed with 5-7 segments each with 3 lobed coarse sharp teeth, spiral or alternate leaf arrangement, with lower leaves having long petioles, growing tall erect stemmed crowned by racemes of large sulphur-yellow flowers from June to August with numerous stamens. The higher the elevation, the more flowers produced, and longer they last. The flowers are well know for having one of 5 petaloid sepals called the galea in the form of a cylindrical helmet that gives itself the English name monkshood. These are 2-10 petals in forms of nectaries, with two upper large petals, located under the hood of the calyx and supported on long stalks, with a hollow spur at the apex containing nectar, and other petals being small or non-forming with 3-5 carpels partially fused at the base. The plant produces a dry unilocular follicle fruit that has many seeds formed from one carpel and dehiscing by the ventral suture to release the seeds when ready to reproduce.
There are over 250 species.
Wolfsbane is easily propagated by divisions of the root or by seeds. The plant can be sown from seeds, although this method is challenging and is recommended to be germinated in a wet paper towel wrapped up in a unsealed plastic baggie for 4 weeks at regular room temperature (but no direct light). After germination, place in freezer for 6 weeks, then sow in sterile planting soil once temperatures get to 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors. Imitate its natural habitat of high elevations, cold, and icy terrain.
Commonly used as an arrow poison throughout history for hunting and warfare.
The roots are occasionally mistaken for those of horse radish. When touched to the lips will produce the feelings of numbness and tingling.
Most of the species of Aconitum contain large quantities of the deadly poison alkaloid pseudaconitine. Wolfsbane can cause severe itching and dermatitis if in contact with human skin, and the poison can be absorbed into the body quickly even with the slightest cut on the skin. Strongly recommended to always wear gloves when handling it. The tiniest amount can be fatal. It is traditionally used in Asian medicine to increase pitta (fire, bile) dosha and to enhance penetration in small doses. In Chinese medicine it is used to treat Yang deficiency or general debilitation. It is a known anodyne, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Internally, Wolfsbane is used to slow the pulse, as a sedative for pericarditis and/or heart palpitations, or diluted as a mild diaphoretic, and to reduce feverishness in treatments of colds, pneumonia, quinsy, laryngitis, croup, and asthma. Initial poisoning will cause gastrointestinal including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea followed by burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. It can cause hypertension, sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. It is a potent neurotoxin that blocks tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channels.
A herb associated with Saturn and Mars used in classical witchcraft. Sacred to the Goddess Hecate. The herb is used to reverse shape shifting spells and protects homes from werewolves. Some claim that witches dipped flints into the juice of wolfsbane as poisoned weapons, these flints were called elf-bolts. Used as an incense to honor Hecate and to receive omens/oracles from her. It is an anti-shapeshifting drug, so can help see people’s real forms. Its used for much baneful magic.
Folklore and History:
It is believed that this plant got the name “Wolfsbane” because early Germans used it to poison wolves. In Greek Myth, Medea attempted to poison Theseus with a cup of wine poisoned with wolfsbane.
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