Tag Archives: Poisons

The Blarney Poison Garden


The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

The Poison Garden:
Blarney Castle, Ireland * 021-4385252 * vwww.blarneycastle.ie *

One of the most intriguing features of the castle grounds of Blarney Castle for a botanist, scientist, or herbalist is the castle’s “Poison Garden”. A collection of plants embracing the world’s most deadliest toxins, one can walk amongst danger and see, smell, and view from close proximity what plants take the lives of hundreds of thousands of human lives annually. The garden has been active since the 18th century and a popular tourist attraction along with the other gardens on the grounds as the estate extends to over 1,000 acres of gardens (the poison garden is just a small tiny yard). The garden is located hidden behind the Castle’s battlements. Some of the more toxic or illegal of substances are located within large black conical iron cages to protect them from the tourist and the viewer from their toxicity. Some of the garden’s plants are controlled substances and therefore heavily monitored. During my 2010 and 2012 visits, many of the caged plants were empty, including the cannabis specimen. This specimen was Taken by the local gardai in 2010. Upon a visit in 2013, the Cannabis plant is not only present but enormous.

120313-117
Cannabis plant, Blarney Castle’s Poison Garden, Ireland

Of the ones I photographed and wrote about below, are:

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Cherry Laurel



Cherry Laurel
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


Cherry Laurel:
Prunus laurocerasus [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Rosales: Rosaceae: Prunus: Prunus laurocerasus ]

Common Names:
Cherry Laurel, English Laurel

Localities:
Native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe, from Albania to Bulgaria east through Turkey and Iran. It is a invasive species in the United Kingdom and Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Species:
There are over 40 cultivars; Numerous varieties of Cherry Laural, Magnofolia is the large leaf’ed one, Otto Luyken is compact with abundant flowers, Schipkaensis is the hardiest wid spreading smaller leaved plant; Zabeliana has narrow willow type leaves.

Description:
A low, compact spreading evergreen shrub or upright small tree, with a maximum height of 20-25 feet and 18 feet width with 2-6 in long / 1/2 to 1 inch wide narrowly oblong smooth edged dark green above and paler green below leaves. The shiny leathery leaves flower into fragrant white 1/4 inch long flowers in narrow cylindrical clusters 2-5 inches long in late spring and summer. The flowers blossom into 1/2 inch long oval green drooping fruits that are believed to be mildly poisonous. It has a rapid growth patern coupled with being a evergreen, tolerant of drought and shade, thereby out competing and killing off native plant species making it an invasive species in some parts of the world.

Cultivation:
Can handle difficult growing conditions including shaded and dry soils.

Common Uses:
Common as a garden ornamental and a favorite in North American yards. Common in landscaping. Leaves repel weevils, fleas, and lice.

Culinary Uses:
Cherries are edible, but the rest of the plant can be poisonous. Leaves are used like bay leaves (laurel family) as a culinary spice albeit the leaves has toxins.

Medicinal Uses:
Most parts of the plant are poisonous including the seeds as they contain cyanogenic glycosides and amygdalin.

Magical Uses:
The leaves can be used to ward off evil spirits.

Folklore and History:


Cherry Laurel
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Poison Ivy



Poison Ivy/Oak
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


Poison Ivy
Toxicodendron radicans [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Rosids: Sapindales: Anacardiaceae: Toxicodendron: Toxicodendron radicans ]

Common Names:

Localities:
Poison Ivy grows throughout North America, in the United States and through Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba of Canada as well as the mountainous regions of Mexico.

Species:
Its similar species, poison oak – Toxicodendron rydbergii is found in the western United States.

Description:
Poison Ivy is a dioecious poisonous North American plant growing either as a trailing vine (upwards of 10-25 cm), a shrub (upwards of 1.2 meters), or as a climbing vine growing on trees. It is an understory plant in the forest. This vine has reddish hairs that are like leaves, that branch off light to dark green leaves that turn bright red in the fall. Leaflets of mature leaves are shiny ranging from 3-12 cm long, but rarely upwards of 30 cm in length, each leaflet has few to no teeth along its edges and hosting a smooth surface, clustering alternate on the vine that produces numerous aerial rootlets as well as adventitious roots that can spread from rhizomes or root crowns. It blossoms inconspicuous yellowish or greenish white flowers bundled in clusters up to 8 cm above the leaves from May to July. Flowers fruit into berry-like drupes that mature from August to November with a greyish white color feeding many birds and animals that disperse the seeds in their droppings.

Cultivation:
Is found in wooded areas along plant edge areas, in exposed rocky areas, open fields, and disturbed areas. It is shade tolerant. It is not sensitive to soil moisture but does not grow in deserts or arid conditions. It can habitate a wide variety of soil types, as well as areas subject to seasonal flooding, or brackish water.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
Poison Ivy produces urushiol, a clear liquid in the sap that causes an itching rash to those who encounter it. It creates a reaction that is urushiol-induced to cause dermatitis that 70-85% of the human population allergically reacts to that can progres to anaphylaxis. Poison Ivy attacks upwards of 350,000 people a year. If the plant is burned and the smoke inhaled, it will cause a rash on the lungs causing pain and possible fatal respiratory issues; If eaten it will damage the mouth and digestive tract. The rash can lasts 1-4 weeks depending on severity and treatment. Its oil can stay active for several years, so handling dead leaves and vines, exposed gloves or clothes, can cause a reaction.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History: “Leaves of three, let it be”; “Raggy rope, don’t be a dope”; “One, two, three? don’t touch me!”; “Berries white, run in fright”; “Berries white danger in sight”; “LOnger middle stem, stay away from them”; “Red leaflets in the spring, it’s a dangerous thing”; “Side leaflets like mitens, will itch like the dickens”; “If butterflies land there, don’t put your hand there”; and “If it’s got hair, it won’t be fair”; are folk rhymes to teach children to avoid the plant.


Poison Ivy/Oak
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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White Hellebore: Veratrum album


Veratrum album, White helleborene
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

White Hellebore
Veratrum album [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Monocots: Liliales: Melanthiaceae: Veratrum: Veratrum album ]

Common Names: Bearsfoot, stinking hellebore, sabadilla, European Hellebore, Weisse Niesswurz, False Helleborine, White Veratrum

Localities:
White Hellebore is common throughout Europe, Lapland to Italy but does not occur in the British Isles; also found in Eurasia, the Alps, the Pyrenees, Russia, East Asia, Siberia, Northern China, Japan, and Northern Africa.

Species:
Helleborus orientalis (used for indigestion and diarrhea); Veratrum Californicum is a species found in Colorado and the Western U.S>;

Description:
White Hellebore is a perennial herb that grows up to 3.5 to 5 feet high with a blackish or brownish-white fleshy oblong horizontal rhizome that is as thick as a finger, which when fresh has an alliaceous odor but loses its smell fast as it drys. It is whitish or pale yellow white internally. Stem is straight, round, and striated that sprouts alternate plaited and broad-ovate leaves that blossom yellowish-white hermaphrodite flowers that have 8 lines in diameter and five large petal like sepals with 8-10 inconspicuous tubular petals with many stamens 3-10 pistils.

Cultivation:
Grows in moist grassy sub-alpine meadows and open woodlands.

Common Uses:
White Helloebore is primarily used for veterinary medicine. It was first used as a pesticide in Rome and Greece. It is used externally to kill lice. It was one of the four classic poisons in the classical world.

Culinary Uses:
The rhizome is sweet tasting at first, then biter and acrid leaving the tongue tingly and numb.

Medicinal Uses:
White Hellebore is extremely poisonous as a violent irritant and is one of the principal poisons used in European history for arrows and daggers. The parts of the plant used are primarily the root and rhizome. When powdered it is ash-colored and deteriorates the longer you keep it. It contains jervine, pseudo-jervine, rubijervine, veratralbine, and veratrine. It has fatty matter composed of olein, sterin, and volatile acids. If sniffed it causes profuse runny nose, when swallowed it causes sore mouth, swelling of the tongue, gastric heat, burning, severe vomiting and profuse diarrhea. It produces narcotic symptoms, stupor, and convulsions. This leads to vertigo, weakness, tremors, feeble pulse, loss of voice, dilation of pupils, spasms of the ocular muscles, blindness, cold sweating, and mental disturbances. Poisoning is treated by injections of coffee, opiates, and demulcents. In minor doses it is efficient on bowel disorders and/or gushing watery diarrhea with spasmodic or cramp-like actions on the intestines and is why its often used to treat cholera infantum, cholera morbus, and asiatic cholera. Originally used in cerebral affections such as mania, epilepsy, gout, and sometimes as a substitute for colchicum. It was on occasion used as an ointment for skin diseases such as scabies or to kill lice. It was also used as an errhine or sternutatory when diluted with starch for treating amaurosis and chronic affections of the brain. It has a paralyzing effect on the nervous system though scarcely used internally even though its alkaloids are used in the pharmaceudical industry. It contains the amorphous alkaloid Veratralbine (C26H43N05) and the three crystallize alkaloids ervine (C26H37NO3), pseudo-Jervine (C29H43NO7), and Rubijervive (C26H43NO3). Today it is primarily used to kill lice and cure scabies as many of its other applications are too risky. Historically though used to treate toothaches, epistaxis, brochial and respiratory affections, asthma, pneumonia, whooping cough, gastric disorders, cholera, colic, constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy disorders, sciatica, hernia, inflammation of the uterus, influenza, typhoid fever, yellow fever, measles, scarlatina, tapeworm, meningitis, epilepsy, opium poisoning, lock jaw, collapse, fainting, angina pecoris, and apoplexy.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History: It is in the family of four classic deadly poisons used throughout history along with deadly nightshade, hemlock, and aconite. Its name “Hellebore” comes from the Greek “Elein” which means “to injure” and “bora” meaning “food”. Its use dates back to 1400 BCE when it was used as a pergative to cleanse the mind of all perverse habits .


Veratrum album, White helleborene
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Deadly Nightshade: Atropa belladonna


Deadly Nightshade
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Deadly Nightshade
Atropa belladonna [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Solanales: Solanaceae: Atropa: Atropa belladonna ]

Common Names: Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Atropa, Belladonna, divale, dwale, banewort, devil’s cherries, naughty man’s cherries, black cherry, devil’s herb, great morel, and dwayberry.

Localities:
Native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Naturalized in North America.

Species:

Description:
Belladonna is common weed that is a branching perennial herbaceous plant that hosts extremely poisonous foliage and berries. It is often found growing as a sub-shrub upwards of 1.5 meters tall and 18 centimeters long ovate leaves producing tyrian purple bell-shaped flowers with green tinges and faintly scented. The fruits are 1 cm diameter sweet tasting berries green ripening to shiny black. It belongs to the Solanaceae family with its family of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, jimsonweed, tobacco, wolfberry, and chili peppers. It has a thick, fleshy, white root that grows upwards of 6 inches long and is branching.

Cultivation:
Often found in shady, limestone-rich soils. Germination of the seeds is difficult, even though a weed that naturally takes over disturbed soils throughout the world. Germination can take several weeks under alternating temperatures.

Common Uses:
An early cosmetic and poison. Rarely used in gardens but if grown in a garden usually for its large upright habit and show berries. As a cosmetic, drops were created to dilate women’s pupils.

Culinary Uses:
A banana flavored liquid called Donnagel PG was once available in the United States until 1992.

Medicinal Uses:
The Deadly Nightshade has extremely toxic foliage and berries that contain tropane alkaloids including the toxins of scopolamine and hyoscyamine that can cause bizarre delirium and hallucinations. It also anticholinergic properties. The ingestion of 2-5 berries can kill a child and 10-20 berries can kill an adult. The root is the most lethal and ingestion of a single leaf can be fatal to an adult as well. Nightshade is used to produce anticholinergics and is the derivative for the drug atropine. It was used both as a medicine and a poison. It was also used as an anesthetic for surgery. Lotions are made to treat neuralgia, gout, rheumatism and sciatica. As a drug it affects the brain, bladder, and can allay cardiac palpitation as well as a powerful antispasmodic in intestinal colic and spasmodic asthma. It has been used through history to increase pupil size in ladies but believed with prolonged use to cause blindness. Symptoms from ingestion can include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions. The only antidote is physostigmine or pilocarpine. It is also toxic for domestic animals that ingestion can cause narcosis and paralysis with the exception of cattle and rabbits that don’t seem to be affected. The chemical scopolamine derived from Belladonna is used to create a hydrobromide salt to treat GI, motion sickness, and to potentiate the analgesic and anxiolytic effects of opioid analgesics. The chemical hyoscyamine is used as a sulphate or hydrobromide to treate GI and Parkinson’s Disease. It has also been used for adjunctive therapy in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon, spastic colon, mucous colitis) and acute enterocolitis. The berries in history were used to treat headache, menstrual symptoms, peptic ulcer disease, histamine reaction, inflammation, and motion sickness. It is used as a recreational drug alongside jimsonweed to create vivid hallucinations and delirium but is very dangerous due to risk of unintentional fatal overdose. Atropine can cause memory disruption and lead to severe confusion. Was also used in “Twilight Sleep” remedies to deaden pain and consciousness during childbirth. It is a Narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, and mydriatic.

Magical Uses:
It is believed that witches mixed belladonna, opium poppy, and other plants to create a hallucinogenic flying ointment to help them fly to gatherings with other witches. Often applied with a broomstick dowel to the genitalia, gave lending to the legend that witches fly around on broomsticks. The plant is believed to belong to the devil who trims and tends it at his leisure only distracted from it during the Walpurgis event when he is preparing for the witche’s sabbat. Priests were believed to drink an infusion of it before worshipping and invoking the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War.

Folklore and History: The Romans used it as a poison (as in Augustus and wife of Claudius using it to kill their contemporaries) and was commonly used to make poison tipped arrows. It was a poison used by Agrippina the Younger and Livia to kill the Emperor Augustus. Macbeth of Scotland used it to kill one of King Duncan’s lieutenants during a truce to poison the troops of the invading Harold Harefoot of England. It was also the primary ingredient for the poison used for Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet tragedy). The name “Atropa” comes from “Atropos” one of the three fates in Greek mythology, after the Greek Goddess “Atropos”, that would determine the course of a man’s life by the weaving of threads that symbolize their birth, events in their lives, and their death with her cutting these threads to mark the latter. The name “bella donna” comes from the Italian for “beautiful woman” probably originating from its use as a facial cosmetic and to increase pupil size.


The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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European Mandrake



European Mandrake
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


European Mandrake
Mandragora officinarum [ Plantae: Solanaceae: Mandragora officinarum ]

Common Names: Alraunwurzel, Mandrake, Satan’s Apple, mandragora, love apple, Circe’s plant, Dudaim.

Localities:
European Mandrake is native to southern Europe, particularly the Mediterranean, and especially Greece and Italy. Found often in uncultivated fields and stoney wastelands.

Species:

Description:
A stemless plant that hosts a short brown thick massive root grouping spreading downwards of 3-4 feet deep similar looking like parsnip. The short stem is topped by ovate leaves, blossoming with small greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers off 3-4″ stalks bearing fruit of orange color fleshy berries. Its often confused with the American Mandrake (may apple), which it has no relation to, except similar fleshy yellow-orange fruits. The roots are often forked look like a human body shape with head, arms, and legs.

Cultivation:
Can be grown from seed in deep planters. Seeds usually germinate within 14 days. Does best in deep well drained soil and full or partial sun exposure.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
In Israel the fruits are used to make alcohol.

Medicinal Uses:
European Mandrake is considered one of the most magical herbs in the apothecary. It is an soporific, anesthetic, emetic, anodyne, Parasympathetic depressant, hallucinogen, hypnotic, and a poison. It is used as a narcotic and a pain reliever. It eases rheumatism. It is used often for sex and fertility magick. European Mandrake is used to treat melancholy, as an emetic, and an anesthetic. It is also very poisonous. The fruits are known to increase sperm count, treat impotence, and as a sex enhancer. Popular anesthetic during the Middles Ages and as a narcotic during the Elizabethan period.

Magical Uses:
In Israel the fruits are made into a aphrodisiac and to boost fertility. Known to heighten female interest in sex. European Mandrake is also used to expel demons. A mandrake root placed in the home will protect it from evil spirits. Money stored near European Mandrake will increase its abundance and increases prosperity. Also used for healing, inducing love, facilitating pregnancy, and restful sleep. It enhances creativity, psychic awareness and abilities. THe root carved into amulets of protection, love attraction, aura purity, and as a emblem of magick. Used to create “Moon Water” by taking a piece of the root under moonlight to be submerged into a chalice of water.

Folklore and History:Because of the anthropomorphic shape of the root, much belief in the root being a humanoid spirit is found in the magical repertoires that if one uprooted it from the ground it would shriek and screams so intense it would cause death unto those who heard it or make them go insane. Many collectors would loosen the soil around the root, attach a cord to the collar of a dog, and have the dog pull the root from the ground otherwise collected in moonlight with a proper prayer and ritual. Believed human hands should not come in contact with he plant. It is used to invoke Circe, Diana, and Saturn. It is related to the element of fire and the planet Mercury.


European Mandrake
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum


Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Opium Poppy
Papaver somniferum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Papaveraceae: Papaver: Papaver somniferum ]

Common Names: poppy tears, lachryma papaveris.

Localities:
Grown ornamenatlly throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

Species:
There are many varieties of Poppy that varie from species to species, most notable through shape of the petals, numbers of flowers, fruits, seeds, colors, and production of opium.

Description:
The Opium Poppy, is a world class illegal drug that is derived from Papaver somniferum.

Cultivation:
To cultivate the Opium Poppy in the UK does not require a license, but does require one if you plant to extract opium for medicinal purposes. It is illegal to extract opium or any of the alkaloids in Italy and in the United States its a Schedule 2 controlled substance even prohibiting opium poppy and poppy straw. It is not enforced for poppies that is grown or sold as ornamentals or for food even though opium tea with high morphine content can be abstracted from poppies found at flower shops.

Common Uses:
It is a real popular plant for ornamental purposes, especially as the “common garden poppy”. Used as gifts or ornamentals in flower shops and gardens. Poppy seed oil is used for the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps.

Culinary Uses:
Poppy seeds are an important food item and is the source for poppyseed oil. The oil is used widely for cooking oil. The seeds are very common to be found on muffins, breads, pies, and bagels. If someone consumes four poppy seed bagels, they could test positive for narcotics. Poppy seed paste (made from oil and seeds) is used in a nut roll called Polish makowiec. Poppy seeds are commonly used in North and South Indian Cuisine and are called “gasagasa”, “khuskhus”, “gasagasalu”, and “posto dana”. They are also commonly used in curries.

Medicinal Uses:
Opium is the source of many opiates in drug culture and pharmaceutical medicine such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. It is a astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic, and sedative. Opium was used throughout history for treating asthma, stomach sickness, and bad eyesight. Opium is the dried latex that comes from the opium poppy. This substance contains upwards of 12% morphine, an alkaloid used to produce heroine. Opium, morphine, and heroine are used as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and sleep aids. Poppy was also used for toothaches and coughs.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:

The latin name means “sleep bringing poppy” which describes the sedative properties of the plant. Images of poppies are found on Sumerian artifacts over 4,000 years old. It was known to the Ancient Greeks who manufactured opium from it and found archaeologically at Kalapodi and Kastanas. In the 1830’s, Britain and China had wars over the sale of Opium called “The Opium Wars”. Late 1800’s to early 1900’s narcotic alkaloids morphine and codeine were available in over the counter drugs such as cough syrup and teething medications.


Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Poison Hemlock



Poison Hemlock
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Poison Hemlock
Conium maculatum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Apiales: Apiaceae: Apioideae: Conium maculatum ]

Common Names:
Hemlock, Poison Hemlock, Devils’ porridge, beaver poison, herb bennet, musquash root, poison parsley, spotted corobane, and spotted hemlock, California fern, deadly hemlock, Nebraska fern, poison parsley, poison stinkweed, snake-weed, spotted hemlock, wode whistle.

Localities:
Native to Europe and the Mediterranean, West Asia, North as well as South Africa. It is naturalized in other parts of Asia, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Species:

Description:
Poison Hemlock is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant that can grow upwards of 2.5 meters tall with a smooth green spotted or red/purple streaked lower smooth stem and finely divided, lacy, triangular leaves (similar to that of parsley) that can grow upwards of 50 centimeters long and 40 centimeters wide. The flowers are clustered in umbels up to 10-15 centimeters across and are small and white. When crushed, the leaves produce a rank, unpleasant odor.

Cultivation:
Commonly found in poorly drained soils near streams, ditches, and ponds as well as roadsides, cultivated fields, and waste areas. It is a highly invasive species in 12 of the United States so pay attention to this before planting or cultivating.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
All parts of the plant is highly poisonous, to humans as well as animals, but once the plant leaves are dried, the poison potency is reduced. Hemlock contains pyridine alkaloids coniine, N-methylconiine, conhydrine, pseudoconhydrine and ?-coniceine. Conine has a chemical structure similar to nicotine and is a neurotoxin that disrupts the central nervouse system in humans and livestock. Ingestion can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, salivation, emesis, diarrhea, muscle tremors, muscular weakness, dim vision, convulsions, coma, and respiratory collapse leading to death. In ages past, Hemlock was used as a sedative and for its antispasmodic traits. It was used to treat arthritis. Overdose can produce paralysis and loss of speech, followed by depression of the respiratory function, and then death. Hemlock causes birth defects in swine, cattle, sheep, and goats.

Magical Uses:
Hemlock is very associated with British Witchcraft.

Folklore and History:
In Ancient Greece, Hemlock was utilized to poison condemned prisoners – the most famous of which was Socrates in 399 BCE. As Plato describes Socrates’ death: “The man … laid his hands on him and after a while examined his feet and legs, then pinched his foot hard and asked if he felt it. He said ‘No’; then after that, his thighs; and passing upwards in this way he showed us that he was growing cold and rigid. And then again he touched him and said that when it reached his heart, he would be gone. The chill had now reached the region about the groin, and uncovering his face, which had been covered, he said — and these were his last words — ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Pay it and do not neglect it.’ ‘That,’ said Crito, ‘shall be done; but see if you have anything else to say.’ To this question he made no reply, but after a little while he moved; the attendant uncovered him; his eyes were fixed. And Crito when he saw it, closed his mouth and eyes.” It has shown up in records to have an association with British Witchcraft. There is a long history about children accidentally being poisoned by it when they made whistles from the hollow stems.

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Delphinium



Delphinium
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Larkspur: Delphinium
Delphinium staphisagria [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Ranunculaceae: Delphinium: Delphinium staphisagria ]

Common Names:
Larkspur, Lark’s Heel, Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur.

Localities:
Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and mountains of tropical Africa.

Species:
There are roughly 300 species.

Description:
Delphinium is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the buttercup family and is also called Larkspur. It has deeply lobed 3-7 tooth palmate shape leaves, has a erect flowering stem ranging from 10 centimeters in one species upwards of 2 meters in another and becomes topped with a raceme of multi-colored flowers ranging from purple, blue, red, white, and yellow. Purple is the most common color. Each flower has 5 petal sepals that grow together to create a hollow pocket with a spur at the end from late spring to late summer. Within he sepals are four true petals. It produces small shiny black seeds.

Cultivation:
Commonly pollinated by buterflies and bumble bees, larkspur can be cultivated by seed(though seeds require a pre-chilling to get germination going) . Larkspur prefers chalky loam soils and commonly grows wild in cornfields. Needs alot of full sunshine. It does crowd out others and steals the nurishments in the soil from other plants. Staking helps alot because it gives it support that it needs.

Common Uses:
Juice of the flowers, mixed with alum, creates a blue ink.

Culinary Uses:
Most species are toxic, but is a food source for a variety of moths.

Medicinal Uses:
All parts of the plant contain alkaloid delphinine and are very poisonous. Eating Larkspur can lead to vomiting and death. Early reports of drinking small amounts of larkspur helped against the sting of scorpions. Other herbals state the seeds can be used to compat parasites, especially lice and their nits. A tincture from Larkspur is used to treat eye diseases, asthma and dropsy.

Magical Uses:
In Transylvania it was believed to keep witches away from stables.

Folklore and History:
The Latin name relates to the Greek workd “delphis” for dolphin which alludes to the shape of the opening flower.

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Wolfsbane: Aconitum vulparia

Official article now located at: http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/treelore/?p=1333


Wolfsbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Wolfsbane
Aconitum vulparia [ Plantae: Angiospermae; Eudicots; Ranunculales; Aconiteae; Family: Ranunculaceae: Genus: Aconitum: Aconitum vulparia ]

Common Names:
Wolfsbane, Badger’s Bane, aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard’s bane, women’s bane, Devil’s helmet or blue rocket.

Localities:
Alps, Europe.

Description:
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.

Species:
There are over 250 species.

Cultivation:
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.

Common Uses:
Commonly used as an arrow poison throughout history for hunting and warfare.

Culinary Uses:
The roots are occasionally mistaken for those of horse radish. When touched to the lips will produce the feelings of numbness and tingling.

Medicinal Uses:
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.

Magical Uses:
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.

Continue reading Wolfsbane: Aconitum vulparia

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Henbane




Henbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Henbane

Hyoscyamus niger [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Solanales: Solanaceae: Hyoscyamus: Hyoscyamus niger ]

Common Names:
stinking nightshade, black henbane, Common Henbane, Hyoscyamus, Hog’s-bean, Devil’s Eye, Jupiter’s-bean, Symphonica, Cassilata, Cassilago, Deus Caballinus.

Localities:
Originates in Eurasia and very common throughout central and southern Europe, Western Asia, India, and Siberia, but now is found throughout the world.

Description:
An annual plant with a almost unbranched stem that is smaller and less downy than the biennial form, leaves shorter and less hairy with yellow flowers in July or August, and its biennial member in May and June. It can grow to a height of 1-2 feet, flowering, and perfecing seeds. Underground has a thick fleshy room with crowns that arise in spring as atall branched flowering stem. The biennial plant spreads out flat on all sides from the crown and root like a rosette, oblong, and egg-shaped, with acute points, stalked and more or less sharply toothed, a foot in length with greyish-green color and covered with sticky hairs. Leaves will perish with winter. Flowering stems push up from root-crown in spring, reaching 3-4 feet in height, becoming branched and furnished with alternate, oblong, unequally lobed stalkless leaves. Most of the leaves are stem clasping and varying in size, but not often more than 9-10 inches in length.

Species:
There are 11 species. Henbane is a member of Solanaceae family, which is in lineage with Potatoes, Tobacco, Belladonna, and Tomatoes.

Cultivation:
Cultivated varieties produce more medical matter than the wild. Grows on most soils, especially sandy beaches near the sea, chalky slopes, or loamy soil. Seeds can lie dormant for a season or more and sometimes dies in patches. Requires light, moderately rich and well drained soils. Seeds should be sown in early May or when ground warms, thinly, in rows 2-2.5 feet apart, with seedlings thinned out 2′ apart. Leaves should be collected when plant is in full flower. When drying, it loses 80-86 percent of its weight, 100 lbs yielding 14-20 lbs. of dry herb. Seeds should be gathered in August, kiln-dried for medicinal purposes, though sun-dried for certain treatments.

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:
Henbane was often added to ‘gruit’ which is traditionally used as a flavoring for beer until it was replaced by hops in the 11-16th centuries.

Medicinal Uses:
The fresh leaves, flowering tops and branches, and seeds are the most commonly used parts of Henbane. The leaves, seeds, and juice was taken internally to create unquiet sleep, mimicking a sleep of drunkenness that continued long and death-like. It is an antispasmodic, hypnotic, and mild diuretic. It was omitted from the London Pharmacopoeia from 1746 and 1788, then restored in 1809, due to experiments by Baron Storch, who prescribed it fo epilepsy and other nervous convulsive diseases. Henbane is toxic to animals even in low doses, often leading to death; but does not affect the Cabbage Moth which eats henbane. Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids are found in the seeds and foliage. Effects from ingestion of henbane causes hallucinations, dilated pupils, flushed skin, restlessness, and sometimes convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, tachycardia, hyperpyrexia, and ataxia. Use of Henbane in medicine goes back to ancient times, as was recommended by Dioscorides (1st c. C.E.) who used it to procure sleep and allay pain. Culpepper claimed that its leaves will cool hot inflammations in the eyes and that it assuages pains of gout, sciatica, pains in the joints that arise from a hot cause. It can be used as a anodyne, hypnotic, or a seditive. Can be used to treat Twilight Sleep and used for acute mania and delirium tremens. Seeds are used as a domestic remedy for toothache. Smoke from the seeds on a hot plate can be applied to the mouth with a funnel or a poultice as a means of application for toothaches. Smoking leaves and seeds in a pipe can be used to treat neuralgia and rheumatism.

Magical Uses:
Throughout the history of magic, Henbane was combined with mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura to create magical brews that were psychoactive anaesthetic potions used in flying ointments that created visual hallucinations and the feeling of flying. It was often applied via a broomstick by witches into the genitals giving effect of the lore of a witch flying on a broomstick. Commonly used in magic for its power of throwing its victims into convulsions. Anodyne necklaces made fro mthe root were hung on children’s necks as charms to prevent fits and for easy teething. The plant is believed to have been added as death offerings in burial to connect the deceased with easing the spirit out of the body to ease its passage into the otherworld. It was a common herb to produce prophecy and the priestessed of the Delphi Oracle were believed to inhale smoke from smouldering henbane in order to retrieve oracles and omens. It is also commonly used in necromancy.

Folklore and History:
Culturally it was used throughout continental Europe, Asia, and the Arabic world onwards through England during the Middles Ages. According to Pliny, The Ancient Greeks utilized Henbane as well. The Priestesses of Apollo used the plant to produce oracles. The name of Henbane goes back to 1265 with the belief that “hen” meant “death”. In 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American homeopath in London, extracted scopolamine from henbane in order to poison his wife. Henbane is believed to have been the “hebenon” that was poured into the ear of Hamlet’s father. The dead in Hades were crowned with Henbane as they wandered aimlessly beside the river Styx. To the Germans, it is believed that Henbane can attract rain and can produce sterility in land and livestock. Often used by witches to raise storms and blight crops.


Henbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland


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