Friday, January 13, 2012
Poisons Post: Aconite & Fly Agaric
Scientific Name: Aconitum
Folk/Common Names: Wolfsbane, Monkshod, Devil’s Helmet
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (Toxin is called Aconitine) Neurotoxin
Toxicity Level: You have 2-6 hours after ingestion before death if your luck is sound.
Where is the Poison: All parts of the plant are poisonous. You can even absorb the poison through the skin/mucus membranes. The fastest way to end up dead is ingestion.
Symptoms: The first sign of poisoning is usually numbness/tingling in the mouth and throat. The next are gastrointestinal -- extreme pain, nausea and vomiting. The pulse will be affected as Aconitine tends to affect the heart. Cold sweats and staggering are also common. If you ingest the poison in high enough amounts you’re most likely to die of cardiac arrest or respiratory distress; whichever comes first.
Aconite was used in Western medicine for a while in very small doses, but was later scrapped for decidedly less...deadly methods.
Interesting Fact: Aconite poisoning seems to leave the mind completely clear. It doesn’t induce delirium like some other poisons.
Probably best known from the Greek story in which Hercules fought Cerberus on the hill of Aconitus. It was sad the dog’s saliva fell on the plant, making it instantly deadly.
Monkshod also was purported to be what Medea attempted to use on Theseus.
Also known for its supposed wolf and werewolf-repelling properties, hence the name Wolfsbane. Arrows dipped in the stuff were said to kill wolves.
BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED?
Aconitine is arguably one of the worst plant toxins in the world. So yes, you should be worried. And don’t eat it.
Scientific Name: Amanita Muscaria
Folk/Common Name: Fly Agaric Mushroom
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (ibotenic acid and muscimol)
Toxicity Level: Ranges with dose from hallucinating but surviving to ending up dead (Rare).
Where is the poison: The Whole Mushroom.
Symptoms: Sets in in several hours at the most. Nausea, confusion, dizziness, auditory and visual hallucinations, sometimes culminating in a false hallucinogenic sleep. Can end up in hysteric laughter or sudden bursts of joy or anger, respectively. The problem with the usually long kick-in time is if you have misjudged your dosage it will be far too late to save you from the effects of the probably-lethal poisoning because it has already worked through your system.
Interesting Fact: Utilized by Siberian Shamans in rituals to expand the mind.
Folk Info: Has a strong tie to fairy-folk, probably due to its properties.
The name, Fly Agaric, comes from its folk use as an insecticide. The pieces would be floated in liquids, and the aroma would entice insects to come take a bite, then end up dead.
SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED? I wouldn’t suggest working with the Fly Agaric at all, but at the very least find a very good herbalist who knows how to tell it apart from a look-alike.
More info on poisons/citation websites:
A Modern Herbal: Poison Directory
Poison Control Centers of America Plant Page
VERY GOOD further reading on the fly Agaric:
Disclaimer: Info is not evaluated by the FDA, yadda yadda, and please don't eat poison or handle it without some sort of training or a good herbalist (although both would be best!). Thanks.
BACK TO THE MASTER POISON LIST?