Aconitum heterophyllum or Ativisa or Ativisha is an Aconite, i.e., it belongs to genus aconite. This plant grows in Northern hemisphere’s mountainous terrain. Ativisa plant is herbaceous and perennial and is one of the poisonous species used in Indian Ayurvedic medicines. However, it is certainly not the most poisonous plant or extract from the plant used in Ayurvedic medicines. The poison in this plant is reduced by specific Ayurvedic processes which may entail boiling Ativisa’s roots in cow’s urine.
Aconitum heterophyllum plant has a straight, cylindrical stem, which is also pubescent on top. At times, however, the stem may be branched.
This plant has several leaves, which vary in sizes. Petioles, i.e., the stalk that links the leave to the stem of the plant, are longer in the case of lower leaves and these are kidney shaped or reniform. The size of petioles keeps on decreasing till the leaves become directly attached to the stem. Such leaves are referred to as amplexicaul leaves. These leaves have no hair on them, which texture is referred to as glabrous in Botany. These leaves are thick. They are bright green on top and pale green beneath.
The flowers are found on a raceme. Raceme is a pattern of how the flowers are there on this plant. Basically, the plant flowers at the top if its stem. There are many flowers at this position. However, each one is linked to the stem with a stalk, and there is a systematic sequence in which these flowers are aligned to give the bunch an elongated slender cluster like appearance.
The flowers of Ativisa may be blue coloured or violet coloured. The petals are of different sizes and shapes. The posterior sepal is a petaloid sepal forming a shape resembling a helmet that is cylindrical. The petals are of light green to pale yellow colour at the base. Dark violet or blue lines emerge from these green parts of the petals and run right to the upper edge of the petals forming tiger like stripes.
Ativisa’s fruit has 5 follicles. It is slightly veined. Its pericarp is papery. The seeds of Aconitum heterophyllum plant are bright brown in colour. They are large, smooth, have irregular angles, and some wrinkles.
The roots of Ativisa get easily crumpled. These are tuberous and paired, and appear every other year, i.e., they are biennial. These roots may be black, red, yellow, or white. The white coloured variant is supposed to be best for Ayurvedic medicine preparations.
The list of phytochemicals in Aconitum heterophyllum includes:
- Heteratisine; and
- Several diterpene alkaloids such as heterophyllin, heterophyllisin, heterophyllidine, and hetidine.
In addition to the above, Ativisha also has tannic acid, aconitic acid, starch, mixture of oleic, stearic, and palmitic glycerine, pectin, sucrose, vegetable mucilage, and ash.
Many of the non-toxic alkaloids mentioned above are found in its roots. A bitter extract from it is therefore obtained and given to children as a tonic in Ayurveda. In general, the extracts and preparations from this plant may be bitter or pungent, thanks to alkaloids and acids.
In English, Aconitum heterophyllum is known as Indian Atees. Since this plant is extensively used in Ayurvedic preparations, it is known throughout India, but there are many languages in India. Therefore, it is known differently in each language. The Bengali name for this plant is Ataich. In Kannada, it is known as Atibage. In Tamil as well as Malayalam, it is referred to Ativisham, or Atividyam. In Punjabi and Hindi, it is known as Atis, whereas in Telugu, it is Ati Vasa. In Konkani, Ativish is referred to as Atibaje, and in Gujarati, it is also known as Ativakhani Kali. The plant is also used in Persia. Therefore, its Persian names are Bazziturki or Vajjeturki.
Botanical name or family of Ativisa
Ativisha’s botanical name is Aconitum heterophyllum. It comes under genus Aconitum of family Ranunculaceae.
Geological area where Aconitum heterophyllum trees grow
The plant is found in abundance in the Western Himalayas, particularly Kashmir, Kumaon, and Garhwal. It requires temperate climate and grows at an altitude of 2500 to 3900 meters above sea level. The plant has been used for hunting by Chinese, Japanese, Alaskans and people from Ladakh. Therefore, it exists in these regions as well.
Medicinal use of Aconitum heterophyllum in different diseases
Aconitum plant can be used externally as well as internally for treating any health problems. Therefore, leaves of Aconitum heterophyllum are crushed and diluted with other Ayurvedic preparations, for any local application. Crushed powder of its seeds along with honey is used in Ayurved to treat tonsillitis. By inhaling the roots extract, it is possible to cure migraines and headaches.
Ativisa is used to treat or cure different ailments affecting different systems in the body. The following list contains the major medical uses of this plant.
1. Respiratory system
It is effective in removing sputum and clearing nasal passage and entire respiratory system. Therefore, Ativisa can be used as expectorant. More specifically, the root powder from this plant is used as an expectorant.
2. Digestive system
Seeds of this plant have been used as laxatives. Both roots, as well as seeds, of this plant are used for treating any fluid accumulation in the body, i.e., in the peritoneum. This plant extracts are also used for treating diarrhea, vomiting, and dysentery. It has been used to treat irritable bowels syndrome (IBS) and to cure piles problem also. This plant has enough agents to flush out any worms. Aconitum heterophyllum is used for preventing any vomiting as well.
3. Urinary system
Extracts from Aconitum heterophyllum are used for treating problems with a urinary system such as a low volume of urine or burning sensation in the system. The seed of the plant also serves as diuretic, i.e., it increases urination.
4. Circulatory system
This plant can be used to reduce perspiration. Juice extracted from leaves is used with zingier juice for treating such perspiration problems.
5. Reproductive system
This plant can be used to treat both spermatorrhea, as well as some burning sensation in the vagina.
The fact that this plant is poisonous cannot be refuted. Any medication has an optimal combination of compounds that collectively cure the problem. Extracts and powders from Aconitum heterophyllum also combined for deriving maximum benefit from them. But dosage may differ as will different combinations. Self -medication with poisonous plants such as this one can lead to adverse reactions and side effects that are not bargained for. Therefore, such medications should be taken only after an Ayurveda doctor is consulted.