A case of fatal poisoning with the aconite plant: quantitative analysis in biological fluid

Sci Justice. 2002 Apr-Jun;42(2):111-5. doi: 10.1016/S1355-0306(02)71807-8.


In recent years recorded cases of plant poisoning have become rare, this may in part be due to the possibility of plant ingestion not being indicated at the beginning of an investigation. Aconitum napellus (aconite, Wolfsbane, Monkshood) is one of the most poisonous plants in the UK. It contains various potent alkaloids such as aconitine, isoaconitine, lycaconitine and napelline. Ingestion of Aconitum plant extracts can result in severe, potentially fatal toxic effects. This paper describes the analytical findings in a recent death in the UK. resulting from deliberate ingestion of Aconitum napellus extract. The concentrations of aconitine measured by HPLC-DAD in the post mortem femoral blood and urine were 10.8 micrograms/L and 264 micrograms/L, respectively. The aconitine concentration in the ante mortem urine was 334 micrograms/L and was estimated to be 6 micrograms/L in the ante mortem serum. Hence, accidental, suicidal or homicidal poisoning due to the ingestion of plant material remains a possibility and should be borne in mind when investigating sudden or unexplained death.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aconitine / blood
  • Aconitine / chemistry
  • Aconitine / urine
  • Aconitum / poisoning*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / poisoning
  • Plant Poisoning / etiology*
  • Suicide*


  • Biomarkers
  • Plant Extracts
  • Aconitine