aconitin as arrow poison?

Peter Koller pkoller at edu.uni-klu.ac.at
Tue Jan 18 13:08:57 EST 2000


In literature on aconitum (napellus and others), I have repeatedly come
across the information that its root extract was used as arrow poison in
"primitive" cultures, but always just in a footnote, or a half-sentence,
and no specific procedure mentioned.

questions:
1) provided it was used to hunt for food (as opposed to warfare or hunting
for skin/fur), how did they get this alkaloid out of the meat again - is it
heat sensitive, so that cooking would take care of the problem?

2) or would the fact that one person just eats a small part of the animal
and thus ingests only a small ammount of the poison reduce the dose enough,
even if you take into account that the dose to kill the animal had to be so
high that it died almost instantaneously, whereas it could take several
days to kill the hunter (+family) which would still make its use rather not
recommendable?
(the books say, 3mg under the skin kill a mouse (1 ounce?) within seconds
(and a lot less of course in a longer time) - same toxicity provided, it
would take 3g (!) to kill an average 30kg deer as quickly, with the poison
being in everything but fur and bones (that is basically in about 22 kg of
meat and guts, according to my hunting experience); the same sources say
also that 1-2 (other sources 6-10mg) are a lethal dose for an adult human.
Therefore, the amount a human could eat and just not be killed (but still
have serious troubles) according to this would be only a small bite of
meat: this knocks out the dilution theory, I think.)

3) However, literature on aconitin says that it is quickly destroyed in the
body - is this done through metabolism only (which a dead animal hasnt got
by def), or by any chemical substance in a mammal, which would also be
there in a dead specimen, so that leaving the meat for some time before
eating it would break down the poison?

4) how else could it be removed from the meat or destroyed without
destroying the food?

please mail as I am no regular reader and I think this is rather off-topic
here.
thanks for your help,
PETER

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