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Poisonous Plants in GB

4 5 Monkshood wolFsbAne Aconitum napellus Family Ranunculaceae. Synonyms Wolfs bane, blue rocket, auld wifes huid, helmet flower. A garden escape in damp places, woodland edges and mountain pasture, but may be native in the West Country. From June to August the bluemauve flowers resemble the hood of a monks robe. This plant competes with hemlock water dropwort for the title of Europes most dangerous plant. Wear gloves when handling, and prevent dogs, cats and children from digging nearby. The Greeks called it akontion or dart, because it was used to tip arrows whence also wolfsbane, but monkshood could have been named ratsbane because it was once used to poison them. The AngloSaxons called it thung meaning poison plant. Theophrastus and Pliny derived the name from Aconae, its place of origin, and napellus means little turnip, alluding to the root. Hekate, goddess of witchcraft, transformed the foam issuing from Kerberos the 3 headed hound of Diana slain by Hercules at a crossroads into monkshood. Gerard, the 16th century herbalist wrote So acrid is the poison that the juice applied to a wounded finger ... causes pains in the limbs and a sense of suffocation and syncope. Those affected clutch at their throat and experience the terrible sensation of ants creeping beneath the skin. The main principle is aconitine, which has been used topically for neuralgia and pain relief. The herb is an ingredient in mediaeval accounts of the witches flying ointment other alleged ingredients included henbane, foxglove and deadly nightshade, and interestingly, both atropine from nightshades and digitalis from foxglove act as antidotes to aconitine. Once thought to remedy scorpion stings and prevent the transformation of werewolves, today it is used homeopathically for nervous excitement.
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