Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Aconite popular in traditional Chinese medicine

Aconitum napellus
Aconitum napellus, or Monkshood, is often grown in gardens in Europe

Londoner Lakhvir Singh has been found guilty of murdering her lover by poisoning his curry with aconite after a trial at the Old Bailey.

BBC News investigates the origins of the poison.

Aconite comes from a species of plant called Aconitum.

According to a review published in the Clinical Toxicology journal, its roots are extremely toxic and are often used in traditional Chinese medicines.

They are soaked and boiled in order to reduce the toxic content and used as an analgesic or an anti-inflammatory agent.

Aconite has also been used to treat pains, agitation and indigestion.

In India, aconite roots are used by both homeopathic and traditional medical practitioners.

Aconite poisoning is therefore more common in Asia, occurring when a larger dose than recommended is used or when the roots have not been processed properly.

In Europe, poisoning is rare and usually happens when the wild plant Aconitum napellus, also known as Monkshood, is eaten accidently.

The plant has dark purple flowers and is often grown in gardens in Europe.

Symptoms of aconite poisoning appear quickly after a poisonous dose is consumed. These include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and numbness of the face.

In severe cases, the numbness can spread to the limbs and muscles can weaken. It also causes hypotension, chest pain and palpitations.

It can cause abnormal rapid heart rhythms and can stop the heart from beating.



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SEE ALSO
Jury out in curry poisoning trial
03 Feb 10 |  London
Case of poisoned lover 'flawed'
01 Feb 10 |  London
Fiancee tells of curry poisoning
08 Jan 10 |  London


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