A review on phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology studies of Aconitum

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2015 Jan;67(1):1-19. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12310. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Objectives: A number of species belonging to herbal genus Aconitum are well-known and popular for their medicinal benefits in Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan and Chinese systems of medicine. It is a valuable drug as well as an unpredictable toxic material. It is therefore imperative to understand and control the toxic potential of herbs from this genus. In this review, the ethnomedicinal, phytochemistry, pharmacology, structure activity relationship and toxicology studies of Aconitum were presented to add to knowledge for their safe application.

Key findings: A total of about 76 of all aconite species growing in China and surrounding far-east and Asian countries are used for various medical purposes. The main ingredients of aconite species are alkaloids, flavonoids, free fatty acids and polysaccharides. The tuberous roots of genus Aconitum are commonly applied for various diseases such as rheumatic fever, painful joints and some endocrinal disorders. It stimulates the tip of sensory nerve fibres. These tubers of Aconitum are used in the herbal medicines only after processing. There remain high toxicological risks of the improper medicinal applications of Aconitum. The cardio and neurotoxicities of this herb are potentially lethal. Many analytical methods have been reported for quantitatively and qualitatively characterization of Aconitum.

Summary: Aconitum is a plant of great importance both in traditional medicine in general and in TCM in particular. Much attention should be put on Aconitum because of its narrow therapeutic range. However, Aconitum's toxicity can be reduced using different techniques and then benefit from its pharmacological activities. New methods, approaches and techniques should be developed for chemical and toxicological analysis to improve its quality and safety.

Keywords: Aconitum; aconite poisoning; pharmacology; phytochemistry; toxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aconitum*
  • Alkaloids / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular Agents / chemistry
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Agents / chemistry
  • Central Nervous System Agents / pharmacology
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / toxicity*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / chemistry
  • Medicine, East Asian Traditional*
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Phytochemicals / toxicity
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plant Roots / toxicity
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Alkaloids
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Phytochemicals
  • Polysaccharides