This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Aconitum Phami. Lond. & Edinb. Aco-nitum Napellus Linn. Blue Wolfsbane. This is a perennial plant, having many stalks three feet high or upwards arising from one root; alternate petiolated leaves divided into five parts, each portion cut into linear segments; and terminal bunches of irregular blue flowers with five petals, many stamina, and three piftils, succeed-ed by three capsules containing several seeds. It is a native of various parts of Europe, and of Virginia; and is planted in gardens with us.
Blue wolfsbane when fresh has a strong odour, but no peculiar taste. The leaves powdered are said by Stoerck to imprefs the tongue with a durable acrimony; but Bergius (a) afferts that he did not find this to be the case; and from this circumstance, and the figure of the plant given by Stoerck, he concludes that the species with which he made his experiments was not the Napellus, but the Aconitum Cammarum of Linnaeus, which much resembles it(b). The ex-pressed juice has an ungrateful smell, and an acrid, slightly styptic taste. On infpiffation it yields an extract, of similar smell and taste, and subsaline.
The fresh plant has long been known as one of the most virulent of the vegetable poisons.
(a) Mat. Med. 483. (b) Haller (Stirp. Helv.) makes the same observation.
Succus fpif-fatus Aconiti Pharm. Ed.
It occasions convulsions, giddiness, insanity, violent purgings both upwards and downwards, faintings, cold sweats, and death itself. Dr. Stoerck was the first who ventured to introduce it into medicine. He began with extremely small doses of the extract, and proceeded to those of half a grain, a grain, two grains, and so on to the quantity of ten, twenty, and even thirty grains, which excited a sweat without inconvenience; and by persisting in the use of it, great relief was obtained in fixed rheumatic and arthritic pains, schirrhous glandular tumours, venereal nodes, anchylofes, amaurofis, and other similar complaints. Other practitioners have experienced the same good effects in some degree, and the Edinburgh college has received the extract as an officinal. In this, as in all the other medicines of suspicious and dangerous properties, it is proper to begin with very small doses, and increase them as they can be borne.