Aconite (Gr.Aconite 10050 probably fromAconite 10051 a stone, because it grows in stony places), a genus of plants of the order ranunculaceae, one of the distinguishing marks of which, the hooded form of the upper sepal, gives the name monkshood to a cultivated species. A plant of this name was known to the ancients, and may have been one of the species now belonging to the genus. The species at present in use as a medicament is the aco-nitum napellus, cultivated in our gardens under the name of monkshood; but several other species possess similar properties in at least an equal degree. Among these are A. lycoc-tonum and A. ferox. Probably the latter, from which the bish root of Nepaul in India is obtained, possesses the most deadly qualities. This was used by the natives to poison their wells on the advance of the British army into their territories. Some of the cultivated varieties of A. napelltcs, having leaves of a lighter shade of green, with blue and whits flowers, have less acridity than the darker variety, and would probably, if used, be found to possess less medicinal power. - From the roots and leaves of the officinal species are prepared extracts and tinctures. Those from the root are the most powerful, and are lamely used in medicine.

The physiological action of this drug depends chiefly, and probably entirely, upon the alkaloid aconitia, though two other alkaloids, aconella and napellina, besides aeonitie acid, are .among its constituents. Aconitia is a white substance, not volatile at ordinary temperatures, slightly soluble in water, and readily so in alcohol ether., and chloroform. It is probably not crystallizable, and the crystallized specimens exhibited as such consist partly of aconella, which is crystallizable and inert in doses in which aconitia would be fatally poisonous. This statement derives support from the fact that the French and German aconitia, which is partially crystallizable, is much weaker than the English. This alkaloid is one of the most powerful known poisons. One fiftieth of a grain has repeatedly proved fatal to dogs, and nearly so to man. Its effects, which may be considered equivalent to those of a corresponding dose of aconite or its tincture, are a burning and swelled feeling of lips, tongue, and pharynx, nausea and sometimes vomiting, headache, shooting pains of the face, difficult respiration, general prostration, and, after a slight preliminary rise, a marked diminution of the frequency and force of the heart's pulsations.

As the fatal dose is approached the pulse again becomes rapid and feeble. The mind is clear, and there is but little somnolence; the pupil is dilated, but less so than by atropia. Fatal poisoning has taken place, not only from the use of the medicinal preparations of the drug, but from its being mistaken for horseradish or other edible plants, from which with care it can be readily distinguished. - The therapeutic action of aconite is obtained by doses much smaller than those which give rise to the effects just described. A slight tingling of the lips and tongue may be regarded as a sign that the dose is not to be increased. Since its action, after a primary slight stimulant effect, is essentially to diminish the activity of the nervous system, and secondarily that of the heart, it is used in medicine for two objects: first, to diminish pain, as in neuralgia; and secondly, to diminish the activity of the heart in inflammatory diseases. According to some observers, aconite possesses a greater power in the reduction of certain kinds of inflammatory fever than can be accounted for by the effects upon the heart described above; but it is to be remembered that some of the diseases in which aconite is supposed to display peculiar power, tonsillitis for instance, have naturally a very limited duration.

It is admitted by most observers that the curative effect of aconite is displayed chiefly in the early stages of inflammations. The list of diseases in which aconite has been used is very large, embracing those in which inflammatory or neuralgic symptoms are prominent. In poisoning by this drug, after evacuation of the stomach, stimulant remedies, such as alcohol, wine, and brandy, and dry heat to the surface, should be used.

Aconitum napellus (Monkshood).

Aconitum napellus ("Monkshood).