The Poison Path: Drop Dosage Plants

Dedicated to one of my greatest teachers Michael Moore, who began classes teaching about toxic medicinals and taught me to feel comfortable yet careful when using them in practice. This post is an addendum to a class I teach where we go into the applications and cautions of the plants listed.

What differentiates between medicine and poison is dosage

Herbalists that simply use herbs in place of drugs are missing out on the richness and depth that herbal medicine encompasses. The application of herbal medicine in a holistic practice is much more complex that substituting one thing for another. Herbs are as beautiful, messy and weird as we are, which is why whole plant medicine can have much more breadth and depth in practice. This is a bit of a disclaimer to say that this class is not a straightforward leap into using toxic plants for drug like effects in place of a drug. Many of the plants we are discussing are used in formula may act as a catalyst, or together with other plants form a synergy or amplify certain actions in the body. I highly recommend that you try these plants on yourself and get them from a reputable source before using them in clinic. Some may never be safe for a clinical situation, but are good to know about.
What I see in modern day use of toxic botanicals in herbal medicine is either:
Ignoring the entire idea that we should be concerned with toxicity. The result being that many of herbal medicines are used improperly
Avoiding the use of anything that may be seen as “too strong”
Instead, I propose learning a healthy, humble understanding of plant pharmacology and how to approach this more advanced study of herbal medicine.

Historical use of toxic botanicals as visionary plants in early spiritual practices: Flying ointment and other stories from long ago
Historical use of toxic botanicals in early Physiomedicalism and Eclectic Medicine in the United States
Modern use of toxic botanicals in practice
How to dose with toxic botanicals.
Safety: sourcing
Safety: what does an overdose look and feel like?

Plants Constituents that could act as toxins

Alkaloids
Glycosides
Minerals
Oxalates
Photosensitizing Compounds
Phytotoxins (Toxalbumins)
Polypeptides and Amines
Resins

Problems with the evidence in scientific literature: we are not cows

>Monkshood
ACONITUM SP
Aconitine is thought to be the key toxin. Ingestion of even a small amount results in severe gastrointestinal upset and death may follow from a slowing of the heart

>Wind Flower
ANEMONE SPP
Protoanemonin is thought to be a key toxin. Contact dermatitis may result from topical contact . Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal upset, or even paralysis.

>Arnica
ARNICA
Helenalin is thought to be a key toxin. It can produce gastrointestinal upset and and bleeding of the digestive tract .

>Bleeding Heart
DICENTRA FORMOSA
Protopine and isoquinoline are thought to be key toxins. It can produce convulsions, death, drowsiness. They act as GI tract irritants and CNS stimulants.

>Bittersweet Nightshade
SOLANUM DULCAMARA
Solanine is thought to be a key toxin. It has the potential of paralyzing chest muscles. “In large doses it causes dryness and heat with stinging pain in the fauces, accompanied with thirst, sickness at stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea, prostration or syncope, and spasmodic twitchings. With some persons it depresses the action of the heart and arteries, and causes a moderate degree of lividity on the hands and face. The head usually feels heavy and dizzy, and a cutaneous erythema may be developed.”King’s Dispensatory

>Virgin’s Bower
CLEMATIS
Protoanemonin is thought to be a key toxin. Contact dermatitis may result from topical contact . Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal upset, or even paralysis.

>Devil’s Trumpet
DATURA
Atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine are key toxins. May also contain toxic levels of nitrates. May cause contact dermatitis, drowsiness, delirium, dry mouth, heart irregularities, hallucinations and even death

>Vomitwort
LOBELIA INFLATA
Lobeline is thought to be a key toxin as an emetics. Death, when due to lobeline, is said to result from respiratory paralysis…Or is it? “The Thompson Trials”

>Yellow Jessamine
GELSEMIUM
Gelsemine and Gelseminine are thought to be key toxins. It can cause paralysis, convulsions and occasionally death from asphyxia.

>Poke
PHYTOLACCA
Triterpene saponins and phytolaccin are thought to be key toxins. In excess it may cause diarrhoea, considerable vomiting, convulsions, and death.

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