Aconitum ferox or Vatsanabha is a perennial herb, with attractive violet or bluish flowers that bloom from July through November each year. This herbaceous plant grows to a height of 3 feet or so. The stem of this plant stands straight and is cylindrical.
Leaves of Aconitum ferox plant are oval and lobed, but simple, i.e., these leaves are not compound leaves. Another characteristic of these leaves is that the lower ones have longer stalks linking them to stem while the leaves on top have shorter stalks or peduncles.
The inflorescence in this plant consists of flowers growing in a slender hairy raceme, with hooded flowers on the top. This hooded shape is the reason for the word “helmet” being used in some of its common names.
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Aconitum ferox oblong fruits have reticulate follicks. Seeds of this plant can be best described as obovoid or obpyramidal. This herb also has biennial bulbous roots, which have been used in Ayurveda for curing many ailments over the years.
Ayurveda classifies its bulbs as poisonous. In fact, Vatsanabha is described as one of the most poisonous bulbs among the 13 poisonous ones. The poison from this plant was used by ancient Greeks and Chinese on their arrows.
Toxicity in the extracts from this plant is due to alkaloids. The toxic alkaloids found in the root of this plant include:
- Diacetyl pseudaconitine;
- Diterpenoid alkaloid;
- 3-4-dihydro-6-hydroxy2 (1H)quinolone;
- Acetylsenbusjne A;
- ChasmaconitineCrassicauline “A”;
- Senbusjne A;
- Senbusjne B; and
In addition to the above phytochemicals, the Aconitum ferox plant also has lipo-alkaloids, i.e.:
- Lipopsuedo aconitine; and
The four aconines present in this plant are:
- Benzyljndaconjne; and
For fatal effect, however, heavy dosages of the poisonous alkaloids are needed. Symptoms of such poisoning are skin rashes, followed by tremors and burning sensation. In more severe poisoning, some froth may come from the mouth, and the person may complain of severe shoulder pain and acute tiredness. Coma and death are rare, but not ruled out in excessive dosage.
In Ayurvedic preparations, the bulbous roots are processed for reducing their poisonous effect. There are three different processes for doing this. In one method, the roots are boiled in cow’s urine whereas, in another method, the roots are kept dipped in such urine for approximately 3 days, and thereafter, it is kept in sunlight.
Once again, the roots are dipped, but this time in the water. After about three days, the roots are pulled out of this water and dried. The last method entails dipping these roots in cow’s or goat’s milk and boiling for almost three hours.
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The plant grows in Northern hemisphere’s temperate zone. Therefore, it is known by different names in different regions.
Aconite is one of the common names for it, though it could refer to other species of the same genus. In India, it is known as Indian vish. But each region in the country has a different name for it. In Hindi, it is known as Teliya Vish, Mitha Teliya, Bachnag, or TeliyaVish.
Gujarati people call it Chingadiyo. In Bengali, it is Kathvish, and in Kannada, it is Nasnabhi. In Punjabi, it is Mohari or Shyam Mohari, while in Tamil, it is Vasanasi. Biharis refer to it as Dakara whereas Telugu people know it as nabhi. There are other names also with some similarities to these names.
Outside India, there are several common names for Vatsanabha , such as Mouse bane, Wolf’s bane, Leopard’s bane, women’s bane, monk’s hood, devil’s helmet, blue rocket, and “qeen of all poisons”.
Botanical Name and Family
Aconitum ferox belongs to the Ranunculaceae family under order Ranunculanae. The plant comes under genus Ranunculus of the family. This plant is also identified as “Aconitum ferox Wall”.
Geological area where Aconitum ferox trees grows
As mentioned before, Vatsanabha and the entire species is native to Northern hemisphere’s temperate zone. In India, this plant grows in Kashmir, Garhwal, and Kumaon regions.
It also grows in West Bengal, particularly in Darjeeling. Nepal is another country where this plant grows in abundance. In general, it is found in Western parts of Himalayas and prefers altitudes ranging from 7000ft to 12000 ft or so.
Medicinal Use of Vatsanabha in different diseases
Usage of extracts from this plant can be broadly classified as external and internal.
Externally, it is good as anti-inflammatory and effective in reducing any pain. Its internal effects are as follows:
1. Nervous system:
It tingles the ‘sensory’ nerve fibres, more specifically their tips, on being massaged in along with some oil. These nerve fibres become numb and pain is reduced. The reactive agents are delivered through the mucous membrane.
There is little or no effect of the extract on the brain. However, it does affect the ‘motor’ nervous system as well. Therefore, it becomes effective vasoconstrictor. It can be used on Vagus as well as the respiratory system.
2. Respiratory system:
Small doses of medicines made from the extract of this plant are used in Ayurveda to treat pneumonitis as well as pleurisies.
3. Urinary system:
The extract from this plant is used as diuretic. It is also used to decrease urinary calculi.
4. Digestive system:
In Ayurveda, a small dosage of this plant’s extract is used as Hepatostimulant. Other benefits from such extracts are:
- Gastric secretions reduction;
- Pain relief; and
5. Cardiovascular system:
Impure variety can slow down the system, whereas pure or processed variety can stimulate the system. Aconitum ferox is also used to treat oedemas.
6. Reproductive system:
The medicinal concoction containing extract from this plant is used for treating amenorrhea.
Processed extracts from this plant are antipyretic. They also leave the body easily through sweat, saliva, urine, or bile.
Processed extracts from this plant can be used to increase sweating.
In general, extracts from this plant have:
- Anti-pyretic; and
- Analgesic properties.
Extract from Aconitum ferox is a good medication only when it is processed and administered in low concentrations. Required concentration varies from person to person, and ailment to ailment.
Therefore, self-medication with this extract is to be strictly avoided, especially since the consequences can be fatal. Aconitum ferox medicinal uses are countless but it is always advisable to consult a qualified Ayurvedic physician before using any ayurvedic medicines containing this extract.