Raised from the poisonous saliva of Cerberus

I remember my first introduction to fighter pharmacy-aconite (Aconitum napellus).

On that memorable day in June 1947, we, a group of biology students at Moscow State University, went to one of the educational excursions. Then we conducted practice Ivan G. Serebryakov, a wonderful teacher and a man, later professor of known plant morphology.

From the station Romashkovo Ivan G. took us on a wide forest road, which could be seen in some places even puddles after recent thunderstorms. We were met by a joyous, washed by rain, a young mixed forest. Suddenly, he parted – and we saw a large clearing, completely white on many flowering daisies (botanically they are called daisy, daisy). None of us had ever seen before such an abundance of daisies. We wove itself on wreath, and then pounced on the flowers and have them tear – each wanted to outdo girlfriends size of the bouquet. We ripped and tore daisies – these little radiant sun, we are seized with greed and vain Ivan G. tried to stop this shameless rip-off, saying that far to go, flowers wither, and we will still throw.

From our raid clearing did not fail. When we left, she remained as beautiful. But who could have known that in a few years and this will turn into a fabulous trampled wasteland, which is not something that chamomile, you will not see a blade of grass. Apparently everyone who came here in June, tearing, pulling huge armfuls of white daisies in the city, gradually transforming the meadow in a place like that on which day and night tolchetsya large herd …

After a halt, we descended to the river and went in the direction of Rublev. The forest has changed, become damp and shady. The large old spruce we suddenly saw something extraordinary. High, not less than one meter plant, with a brush of dark blue, like small flowers helmets, standing proudly over the other herbs. He seemed large palmate leaves are slightly molded metallic luster.

Someone reached out to dig it for a herbarium, but Ivan G. stopped:

– It – aconite, one of the most poisonous plants in the world. It is better not to touch hands.

So that's what he's like, aconite – king-grass, the next of kin of the most toxic of these species – wild aconite (A. ferox), growing in the Eastern Himalayas in Nepal, Burma and China, at an altitude of 3000 – 4000 meters above sea level in mountain forests.

In ancient times of aconite legends. In one of his poems, Ovid said that Medea wanted to poison Theseus juice of aconite. Aconite has grown from saliva three-headed dog Cerberus, the keeper of the entrance to hell. When Hercules dragged him out of the abyss, Cerberus saw the light of day and was horrified. Poisonous saliva flowed from his three mouths to the ground, and grew out of it is full of poison plant.

The name of this plant, according to one version, is derived from the Greek town of Akon, where it is grown and where near the town of Heraclea was a cave, in which according to myth, was the entrance to hell.

Germans called aconite god Thor helmet and wolf root (Thor, as mentioned in the myth, fought with the wolf with aconite). Hence it is said to have occurred and our Russian name aconite – wrestler volkoboynik. Another name – the "king-grass" – was given to this plant for its very poisonous. Poison was considered so terrible that one possession aconite in some punishable by death.

Aconite root usually consists of 2-3 napiform tubers black and brown. Depart from it long, thin lateral branches. Tubers reach 8.4 centimeters long and 3.2 centimeters wide. Of the older, darker colored tuber spring grows erect simple (rarely branched) stem height of 1.5 meters. At the top of each tuber to trail off once sat on it stem. Plant as it walks under, annually moving a root of 2 – 3 cm.

On the stem leaves are alternate with long petioles. They are subdivided into 3 – 7 notched narrow wedge shares. The upper side of leaves are dark green, glossy, lower paler matte. The tip of the stem (often children) has long tassels of large flowers. They are wrong, and in different species of aconite differently colored: blue, blue, blue-violet, white, yellow. Calyx pyatilistnaya, petaloid. Upper sepal helmet, under it – the two long threadlike petals, bent upward and terminate small curved caps, inside which one nectary. Petals up to 8, but 6 of them – plenochki subtle, sometimes they do not develop, stamens many, dry fruit, from 3 – 5 leaflets seeds of black-brown, triangular, with wrinkled wavy "back."

Fresh smell of aconite tubers horseradish. Sometimes confused with celery plant (known case in which a shepherd ate tuber aconite, mistaking him for celery). Tubers taste rancid, causing the language of feeling pins and needles and then numbness. To cause fatal poisoning, enough 2 – 4 tubers aconite.

Alkaloids in various parts of aconite were first discovered by French chemist Peshe in 1820, but in its pure form is one of them – identified aconitine German toxicologists Geiger and Hesse in 1838, almost 100 years later, in 1929, Japanese chemist Mayim found that Japanese species of aconite, as well as European, contain a mixture consisting of three crystalline alkaloid (aconitine, mezakonitin and gipakonitin), similar in chemical composition. Different types of plants of the genus Aconitum three alkaloid found in various ratios, and depending on the number represent the main active ingredient. The structure aconitine is akonin – base, associated with various aconite species with different acids: acetic, benzoic, veratrovoy, amber, anise, etc.

Akonin stimulates the activity of the heart and is an antagonist of aconitine. Aconitine extremely toxic: 1/5 milligrams is enough to cause serious poisoning. The literature describes the case when 3 – 4 milligrams aconitine kill an adult.

At the beginning of this century Dutch physician Meyer took 50 drops of aconitine nitrate in order to convince the wife of one of his patients that are non-toxic drug. After half an hour he had the first symptoms of poisoning. Four hours later, the doctor was called Meyer a doctor who found him sitting on the sofa, very pale, with the contraction of the pupil, and rapid pulse. Meyer complained of chest tightness, difficulty swallowing, pain in the mouth and stomach, headache and feeling of icy cold. All the measures had failed. Increase the feeling of anxiety, pupils were dilated, after forty minutes came the asthma attack, and after the third (5 hours after drug administration) Dr. Meyer died.

The first report on medicinal value of aconite appeared in England, in the journal "The Lancet" in 1869 and wrote about it as one of the main homeopathic remedy.

Vladimir Dahl, famous as a collector of folklore, compiled "Explanatory Dictionary", as well as the doctor, who was at his deathbed, Alexander Pushkin, in a letter to Odoyevskiy "On omeopatii" published in "Contemporary (№ XII, 1838) , wrote on its use of aconite in the treatment of pneumonia. "The first half hour reception brought considerable relief, and through dvoi day and there was no trace of the disease: the patient Bashkirs was sitting on a horse and singing songs." When the son of Dalia ill croup, he treated his aconite.

PI Melnikov-Pechersky's novel "In the Woods" writes about aconite as a means of 40 diseases. The magazine "Russian Antiquity" informed vintage details Akon, as a means of pravezh. Pravezh – A terrible caning debtors and defaulters, particularly rampant in the first half of the XVIII century.

* Mules PA medicine after pravezh. – "Russian Antiquity", 1875, Vol. V, p. 146.

"Wrestler – there is grass him hot … Toe foliage fresh and dry herbs is applied to internal sores … And who hit for pravezh the morning or all day, so that emlet wrestlers dried and soars in sour soup is good, and Toe noschi soars feet bits toyu grass soup with sour much and broken taco place will become soft, and tacos works on all the days , until he hit for pravezh, and feet on the battle will continue to be intact "*.

Reading these old recommendations, not so much struck by the naive belief in the healing power of a fighter, though helping battered during the day, how many epic calm, do not concede Homer, which tells about the pravezh.

Death due to aconitine poisoning occurs from paralysis of the heart or of the disorder, and respiratory paralysis.

The contradictions in the data on the medicinal properties of aconite and security have led to the fact that the tincture of aconite in the official medicine used only externally, radiculitis, neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, and as an anesthetic.

Until now, in spite of all efforts, there is gap between the knowledge of the chemical structure of aconitine and its effects. It is not clear what the biochemical processes that violate aconitine, are central to the complex picture of changes that occur in cases of poisoning. This complicates the search for antidotes and treatments. Therefore aconite poisoning is especially dangerous.

When the plant is harvested for medical purposes, commonly used type of A. napellus, growing in the mountains of Central Asia and Southern Europe, in the forests south-western and central regions of the European part of the USSR, Siberia and the Caucasus, A. caracolicum – aconite Kara-kola, common near the town Przhevalsk (formerly Karakol), and A. soongoricum – aconite Jungar (Issyk-Kul root, ak-PARP-uugor goshun) growing in the eastern part of the mountain in Kazakhstan in Jungar Alatau. Leaves, flowers and tubers collected during flowering, applying precaution. Since the poison quickly penetrates the skin, aconite collect gloves. At this time it is not recommended to touch the eyes and mouth.

Wrestlers Karakol, Talas and Jungar – the most important medicinal plants of Central Asia. Recently, however, reserves are severely depleted, and they entered the lists of the "Red Book" as plants requiring protection. In full protection also need wrestler Zhakena – valuable for science view, growing in our country in the Eastern Carpathians, and fighter tangautsky, which occurs only in one point of the Eastern Sayan.

In oriental medicine use Chinese monkshood (A. chinense), wild (A. ferox) and aconite Fisher – (A. fischeri).

All species of aconite are herewith. Ranunculaceae, in which a lot of other poisonous and representatives.

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