Akoniton

aconitum

Τὸ δ’ ἀκόνιτον γίνεται μὲν καὶ ἐν Κρήτῃ καὶ ἐν Ζακύνθῳ, πλεῖστον δὲ καὶ ἄριστον ἐν Ἡρακλείᾳ τῇ ἐν Πόντῳ. ἔχει δὲ φύλλον μὲν κιχοριῶδες, ῥίζαν δὲ ὁμοίαν τῷ σχήματι καὶ τῷ χρώματι καρίδι, τὴν δὲ δύναμιν τὴν θανατηφόρον ἐν ταύτῃ· τὸ δὲ φύλλον καὶ τὸν καρπὸν οὐθέν φασι ποιεῖν· καρπὸς δέ ἐστι πόας οὐχ ὑλήματος. βραχεῖα δὲ ἡ πόα καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχουσα περιττόν, ἀλλὰ παρομοία τῷ σίτῳ τὸ δὲ σπέρμα οὐ σταχυηρόν. φύεται δὲ πανταχοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐν ταῖς Ἀκόναις μόνον, ἀφ’ ὧν ἔχει τὴν προσηγορίαν· αὕτη δέ ἐστι κώμη τις τῶν Μαριανδυνῶν· φιλεῖ δὲ μάλιστα τοὺς πετρώδεις τόπους· οὐ νέμεται δὲ οὔτε πρόβατον οὔτ’ ἄλλο ζῶον οὐδέν. συντίθεσθαι δὲ τρόπον τινὰ πρὸς τὸ ἐργάζεσθαι καὶ οὐ παντὸς εἶναι· δι’ ὃ καὶ τοὺς ἰατροὺς οὐκ ἐπισταμένους συντιθέναι σηπτικῷ τε χρῆσθαι καὶ πρὸς ἄλλα ἄττα· πινόμενον δ’ οὐδεμίαν αἴσθησιν ποιεῖν οὔτ’ ἐν οἴνῳ οὔτ’ ἐν μελικράτῳ· συντίθεσθαι δὲ ὥστε κατὰ χρόνους τακτοὺς ἀναιρεῖν, οἷον δίμηνον τρίμηνον ἑξάμηνον ἐνιαυτόν, τοὺς δὲ καὶ δύο ἔτη· χείριστα δὲ ἀπαλλάττειν τοὺς ἐν πλείστῳ χρόνῳ καταφθίνοντος τοῦ σώματος, ῥᾷστα δὲ τοὺς παραχρῆμα. λυτικὸν δὲ φάρμακον οὐχ εὑρῆσθαι, καθάπερ ἀκούομεν ἑτέρων τι φύεσθαι. ἀλλὰ τοὺς ἐγχωρίους ἀνασώζειν τινὰς μέλιτι καὶ οἴνῳ καὶ τοιούτοις τισί, σπανίως δὲ καὶ τούτους καὶ ἐργωδῶς.
(Theophrastus, Peri Phutōn Historia 9.16.4-5)

Wolf’s-bane grows in Crete and in Zakynthos, but is most abundant and best at Herakleia in Pontus. It has a leaf like chicory, a root like in shape and colour to a prawn, and in this root resides its deadly property, whereas they say that the leaf and the fruit produce no effects. The fruit is that of a herb, not that of a shrub or tree. It is a lowgrowing herb and shows no special feature, but is like corn, except that the seed is not in an ear. It grows everywhere and not only at Akonai, from whence it gets its name (this is a village of the Mariandynoi): and it specially likes rocky ground. Neither sheep nor any other animals eat it. In order to be effective it is said that it must be compounded in a certain manner, and that not everyone can do this: and so that physicians, not knowing how to compound it, use it as a septic and for other purposes: and that, if drunk mixed in wine or a honey-posset, it produces no sensation: but that it can be so compounded as to prove fatal at a certain moment which may be in two three or six months, or in a year, or even in two years: and that the longer the time the more painful the death, since the body then wastes away, while, if it acts at once, death is quite painless. And it is said that no antidote which can counteract it has been discovered, like the natural antidotes to other poisonous herbs of which we are told: though the country-folk can sometimes save a man with honey and wine and such like things, only however occasionally and with difficulty. (tr. Arthur Hort)

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