Aconitum Lycoctonum (Sometimes referred to as Aconitum Vulparia), commonly known as Wolfsbane is a plant which grows stalks about 3 feet high, with lovely pale yellow flowers, with petals shaped vaguely like a helmet. It is native to the Alps of central Europe, thriving better in damp forests at higher elevations, and are quite common in Switzerland. The plant, a perennial, is sometimes planted in a gardens. Due to its rugged nature, it is quite capable of surviving weather that might kill off weaker flowers. It grows quite well under the shade of a tree, or a building. It can be planted either from seeds or from a cutting of the root.
Much like the other members of Aconitum, the root and sap of Wolfsbane is posionous. The root of the Wolfsbane plant contains the alkaloids lycaconitine and myoctonine, both potent neurotoxins. Applied externally, it will cause the skin to tingle, and then deaden the nerves. As such, it is sometimes used as an analgesic, in very low concentrations.
Ingested, the root of the Wolfsbane will cause paralysis of the diaphragm, slowing and or stopping breathing entirely, as well as acting the same way upon the heart, causing a drop in blood pressure, slowing the pulse, and eventually causing cardiac arrest. However, used in very small quantities, it is sometimes also used internally as a painkiller. Still, personally I'll stick to Advil.
Traditionally, Wolfsbane has been associated with werewolves, as the plant is supposedly able to ward them off, hence the name. Perhaps this is the reason that Switzerland has so few werewolves. Due to this association, the plant is used in Magick potions, and the such by those who believe in witchcraft and the like. I myself neither believe nor know much about it, but hey, to each their own. The plant is sacred to Hekate, and is associated with the planet Saturn.
Fieari says re: Wolfsbane - It's a pity, but what very little I know about wolfsbane I read in Harry Potter... in which it also states that it goes by the names "Wolfsbane" (covered), "Aconite" (covered) and... "Monk's hood". Is that last one true? Can you find out? If it is, could you mention it? If it isn't... could you mention it anyway?
Ok, the deal is this. Wolfsbane is a member of the Genus Aconitum, which has about 60 different species throughout the world. Many of them at just as poisonous as Wolfsbane, including Monkshood (Aconitum napellis), which is purple, not yellow, and has a different type of poison, but still as lethal. Because they're the most well known, the Wolfsbane and Monkshood name is often applied to each other, or to other members of the Genus. One of those calling all types of soda pop Coke things.
Wiccanpiper says re Wolfsbane: Well, and according to that old movie, 'The Wolf Man', "Even a man who is pure in heart/and says his prayers by night/may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms/and the Autumn moon is bright."
Wikipedia, "Aconitum," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. December 11, 2004. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aconitum> (December 19, 2004).
Alchemy Works, "Wolfbane Seeds from Alchemy Works," Seeds for Magick Herbs and Pagan Gardens. 2000. <www.alchemy-works.com/aconitum_vulparia.html> (December 19, 2004).
Columbia University Press, "Aconite," The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2004. <www.bartleby.com/65/ac/aconite.html> (December 19, 2004).