Wolfsbane Plant: Classification, Morphology, and Uses

Wolfsbane Plant: Classification, Morphology, and Uses


Aconitum is a genus of around 250 species of flowering plants that belong to the Ranunculaceae family of buttercups. It is sometimes referred to as aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard’s bane, women’s bane, Devil’s helmet, or blue rocket. An extremely dangerous alkaloid called aconitine is generated from numerous aconite species. The herbaceous perennial plant aconite is primarily indigenous to the northern hemisphere and thrives in the damp but well-draining soils of highland meadows. They have stipule-free, dark green leaves. They have 5-7 palmate segments, each of which has three lobes and rough, pointed teeth. The lower leaves have long petioles and are arranged spirally. Racemes of substantial blue, purple, white, yellow, or pink zygomorphic flowers with numerous stamens are atop the tall, erect stem. Some nectaries make up the 2–10 petals. The main component of Aconitum species, aconitine, is only very slightly soluble in water and only marginally soluble in alcohol or ether.


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Ranunculales

Family: Ranunculaceae

Genus: Aconitum

Common Names: Wolfsbane, Women’s bane, Devil’s helmet, Leopard’s bane, Monkshood,


Herbs: Perennial; roots or tubers.

Roots: Long fascicled roots.

Leaves: Basal and cauline leaves that are petiolate at the proximal end and sessile at the distal; cauline leaves that are alternating. The final segments of the leaf blade are narrowly elliptic or lanceolate to linear, with toothed margins. Leaf blades are palmately segmented into 3–7 segments.

Inflorescence: The terminal or axillary inflorescence has 1-32 racemes or panicles that are up to 28 cm long. The bracts resemble leaves but do not form an involucre.

Flowers: Bisexual, bilaterally symmetrical, and without persistent sepals in fruit; Lower sepals (pendents) are 2, plane, 6- 20 mm; lateral sepals are 2, round-reniform; upper sepal (hood) is 1, saccate, arched, crescent-shaped to rounded-conic or tall and cylindrical, usually beaked, 10-50 mm; petals are 2, distinct, bearing near the apex a capitate, to be coiled spur; nectary is present, on the spur; stamens are 25-50; filaments have expanded bases

Wolfsbane Flower

Fruits: Sessile, aggregated, rectangular, with pronounced transverse veining on the sides and a terminal, straight, 2-3mm beak.

Seeds: Deltoid, typically with thin, transverse, membranous lamellae, with an x-factor that is x=8

Toxicology of Aconitine

It is easily absorbed both through the skin and mucous membranes. In very high doses, respiratory paralysis and cardiac collapse both cause death. Paresthesia, which includes tingling in the mouth, begins a few minutes after consumption. Starting from the extremities, this covers the entire body. Followed by anaesthesia, bodily cooling and sweating, nausea and vomiting, and other symptoms.


1. Plant’s uses in Chinese herbal medicine (in Japanese)

2. Ayurveda and conventional Chinese medicine have traditionally utilized aconite.

3. The poison known as bikh, bish, or nabee in Nepal is derived from the roots of A. ferox. Pseudaconitine, a poisonous alkaloid, is present in considerable amounts in it. According to legend, the Himalayan plant A. luridum’s root is just as deadly as those of A. ferox or A. napellus.

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