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M is for Monkshood.....

Also known as Aconite or Wolfsbane and many other aliases, depending on the part of the world it's found, Monkshood is part of the aconitum family of plants, whose genus name can be translated to mean, without struggle.

Plants of the genus have been used for centuries in medicine and as poison-- most specifically as poison for arrow tips. Monkshood, which is the most common member of this plant family, grows in northern mountainous  regions.

Monkshood, in extremely small amounts has powerful therapeutic qualities, especially in the areas of pain relief. Derivatives of the plant can be ingested, or absorbed through the skin. In fact, the plant's poisonous qualities are so powerful that picking the leaves from the plant without the safety of gloves can be fatal. A tingling sensation followed by acute numbness will run the length of the victims arm and across the chest until the heart is affected.

Even, taking an innocent sniff of the plant's bloom can leave an individual giddy and light-headed.

Great care must be taken when gathering and preparing monkshood for medicinal purposes as accidental poisonings are a great risk. In fact, accidental poisonings are more frequent as the root of the plant is often mistaken for horseradish. But, as soon as the juice from the root touches a person's lips, an intense tingling sensation followed by numbness (much like the poisoning from gathering leaves) occurs. Once the poison hits the muscles of the heart, it can, initially, cause the heart to speed up, but then depresses the pulse until arrest. Respiratory arrest occurs as the respiratory muscles become paralyzed. One by one, the body systems stop.

One case of monkshood poisoning involved a group of World War I soldiers encamped in southern France, forced to forage and eat what they could find. Some came across the monkshood root and after ingesting it, died a short time later.

There was also the case of a dentist who was desperate to be rid of his father-in-law. His simple solution was to include a bit of monkshood in the filling he placed in the old man's tooth--- the problem shortly took care of itself.

Monkshood Memories

A pretty bloom, 
I dare not touch, 
nor sniff of its perfume.

By only sight,
can we safely admire,
or hope to survive the night.
                                                                                        --- e.a.s. demers


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