Aconitum napellus (root)

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Aconitum napellus L.   Ranunculaceae  
Standardized common name (English): aconite

Botanical Voucher Specimen

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Aconitum napellus Tropicos 100190599.jpg
Source: Missouri Botanical Garden. 05 Aug 2013[1]

Aconitum napellus Kew imageBarcode=K000692339 304385.jpg
Source: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[2]

Aconitum napellus Kew imageBarcode=K000692343 304389.jpg
Source: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[3]

Organoleptic Characteristics

"[Aconitum Napellus] seeds are ... very acrid.

"The fresh leaves have a faint narcotic odor, most sensible when they are rubbed. Their taste is at first bitterish and herbaceous, afterwards burning and acrid, with a feeling of numbness and tingling on the inside of the lips, tongue, and fauces, which is very durable, lasting sometimes many hours. When long chewed, they inflame the tongue. The dried leaves have a similar taste, but the acrid impression commences later."
Source: United States Dispensatory (1918) [4]

Texture Dry, slightly starchy or mealy feel.Color Light brown.
Scent Odor faint, recalling horseradish when moist.
Flavor Taste sweetish, very markedly and persistently acridly pungent; acridity especially marked in the fauces. Benumbing effect.

Source: Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed. [5]

Macroscopic Characteristics

"Aconitum Napellus is a perennial herbaceous plant, with a conical- shaped, tapering root, seldom exceeding 10 cm. in length and 2 cm. in thickness near the summit, brownish externally, whitish and fleshy within, and sending forth numerous long, thick, fleshy rootlets. When the plant is in full growth, there are usually two roots joined together, of which the older is dark brown and supports the stem, while the younger is of a light yellowish-brown, and is destined to furnish the stem of the following year, the old root decaying.

"The stem is erect, round, smooth, leafy, usually simple, and from two to six or even eight feet high. The leaves are alternate, petiolate, divided almost to the base, from two to four inches in diameter, deep green upon their upper surface, light green beneath, somewhat rigid, and more or less smooth and shining on both sides. Those on the lower part of the stem have long footstalks and five or seven divisions; the upper, short footstalks and three or five divisions. The divisions are wedge-form, with two or three lobes, which extend nearly or quite to the middle. The lobes are cleft or toothed, and the lacinise or teeth are linear or linear-lanceolate and pointed. The flowers are of a dark violet-blue color, large and beautiful, and are borne at the summit of the stem upon a thick, simple, straight, erect, spike-like raceme, beneath which, in the cultivated plant, several smaller racemes arise from the axils of the upper leaves. Though without calyx, they have two small calycinal stipules, situated on the peduncle within a few millimeters of the flower. The petals are five, the upper helmet-shaped and beaked, nearly hemispherical, open or closed, the two lateral roundish and internally hairy, the two lower oblong-oval. They enclose two pediceled nectaries, of which the spur is capitate, and the lip bifid and revolute. The fruit consists of three, four, or five follicles. The seeds are wrinkled or scaly ..."

Source: United States Dispensatory (1918) [6]

Microscopic Characteristics

Predominating elements are derived from the more or less broken, large, rather thick-walled, essentially isodiametric closely united parenchyma cells filled with compound starch granules. A few slightly brownish, essentially rectangular only slightly elongated, rather thin-walled, very porous sclerenchyma cells, which generally occur singly, rarely in twos. Some porus ducts and tracheids; spiral ducts rare.

Starch granules singly, in twos, fours, and aggregates of from five to seven; hili distinct in the larger granules, centric; single granules 5μ to 15μ; cross bands quite distinct, broad, right angled. There should be no thick-walled sclerenchyma, no true bast, and vascular tissue should be sparingly present.

Source: Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed. [7]

Microanalysis powdered vegetable p 208 google ver aconitum root.PNG
Source: Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed.[8]

High Performance Thin Layer Chromatographic Identification

Supplementary Information


  1. Missouri Botanical Garden. 05 Aug 2013
  2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  4. United States Dispensatory (1918)
  5. Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed.
  6. United States Dispensatory (1918)
  7. Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed.
  8. Schneider, A. (1921) The Microanalysis of Powdered Vegetable Drugs, 2nd ed.
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