Vatsanabha (Aconitum ferox) Benefits, Toxic Effects, Purification, Dose

Vatsanabha – Aconitum ferox, is an herb used as an ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines. It is a poisonous herb, but, when used in smaller quantities, after purification, as a medicine, it has many health benefits. It is called Monk’s Hood or Monkshood in English.

Botanical name – Aconitum ferox Wall.  ex Syringe
Family – Ranunculaceae

Picture of the plant

Vernacular names, Sanskrit synonyms

Names in different languages:
English name – Monk’s hood, Aconite
Assamese name – Vish
Bengali name – Kathvish, Katvish, Mitha Vish
Bihari name – Dakara
Gujarati name – Basnag, Bachnag
Hindi name – Bachnag, Meetha Vish, Meetha Teliya
Kannada name – Vatsanabhi
Marathi name – Bachnag
Punjabi name – Mohari, Shyam Mohari
Telugu name – Nabhi

Synonyms in Sanskrit:
Visha – poisonous herb
Amruta – Acts as nectar if used in suitable doses, after purification.
Vatsanabhi, Garala, Stokaka, Pranahara, Kshveda.

Aconitum ferox - dry sample

Classical categorization

Categorization:  It is categorized under ‘Visha’ group of herbs. The word Visha in Sanskrit means poison.
Charaka – Sthavara Visha, poison of plant and mineral origin
Sushruta – Kanda Visha – tuber poisons

Varieties, habitat, chemical constitution

Varieties: There are many Aconitum species herbs, that are used in the name of Vatsanabha, of which Aconitum ferox is used most commonly. Some use Aconitum chasmanthum.

Habitat: Alpine zone of Himalayas of Sikkim and Chumbi.

Monks Hood tuberous root

Aconitum ferox – Chemical constituents and pharmacology
Roots contain toxic alkaloids, pseudo-aconitine, bikhaconitine, chasmaconitine, indaconitine, etc.
Aconitine is the toxic chemical derived from this herb.
Aconitine (acetylbenzoylaconine, C33H47NO11); Aconitum roots also contain catecholamine alkaloids, quaternary ammonium compounds, isoquinolines and other compounds.
Read more about aconitine and its toxic effects.

Qualities, effect on Doshas

Aconitum ferox medicinal qualities:
Rasa (taste) – Madhura – sweet (sweet), Katu (pungent), Tikta (Bitter), Kashaya (astringent)
Vipaka – Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Veerya – Ushna – hot in potency
Effect on Tridosha – Tridoshaghna – balances all the three Doshas, especially, balances Vata and Kapha Dosha

Uses, indications in Ayurveda

Medicinal uses of Vatsanabha as per Ayurvedic text books – 

  • Aconitum ferox is pungent, bitter and astringent in taste. It acts as Yogavahi – a catalyst for other medicines.
  • It is rejuvenative, balances Tridosha, especially Vata and Kapha.
  • It improves digestion, relieves coldness, is nutritive and improves strength.
  • It is used in Ayurvedic treatment of  indigestion, anorexia, spleen disorders, gout, cough, asthma.
  • It is  used in the treatment of vision problems, night blindness, eye infections, inflammation, otitis, headache.
  •  It is useful to relieve headache, sciatica, backache.
  • It is used as antidote for poisoning due to rats, rodents, scorpion and snake bites.
Aconitum ferox benefits

Pranahara – takes away life, poisonous, if used without purification procedure.
Vyavayi – Upon ingestion, spreads to all parts of the body, swiftly
Vikashi – Loosens joints (a quality of poison and alcohol)
Agneya – hot in potency, its action mimics fire
Yogavahi – acts as catalyst for other herbal ingredients to deliver swift therapeutic action.
Brumhana – improves nourishment
Veeryavardhana – improves sperm quality and quantity
Kantharuk – useful in throat disorders
Sannipataghna – useful in chronic fever, last stage of fatal disorders
Rasayana – rejuvenating, anti aging
Deepana – improves digestion strength
Balavardhana – improves strength and immunity
Agnimandyahara  – relieves indigestion, low digestion strength
Pleehodara – useful in splenomegaly, enlarged spleen
Vataraktahara – useful against gout
Shwasahara – useful in asthma, COPD and other respiratory diseases
Kasahara – relieves cough, cold
Gudamayahara – useful in piles, fistula and such other ano-rectal disorders
Grahanihara – useful against IBS, mal-absorption syndrome, alternate loose and hard stools
Gulmahara – useful in abdominal tumor
Kushtahara – useful in skin diseases
Panduhara – useful in anemia, first stage of liver disorders
Jwarahara – useful in fever
Amavatahara – useful in rheumatoid arthritis
Vataghna – Balances Vata, useful in neurological disorders such as paralysis, hemiplegia, neuropathy etc
Timirahara – useful in eye disorder
Nishandhyahara – useful in night blindness
Abhishyanda – useful in conjunctivitis
Netrashotha – relieves eye swelling
Karnashotha – relieves ear swelling
Karnashoolahara – useful in ear ache
Shirashoolahara – useful in headache
Grudhrasi – useful in sciatica
Kativedana – relieves lower back pain, hip pain
Akhu, Vrushchika, Sapra vishahara – Useful in rodent bite, scorpion bite and snake bite.

Part used, Dosage

Part used: Tuberous root of Vatsanabhi.
It is best to collect roots of Aconitum ferox between December to April. During this period, Vatsanabha will be more potent.

This herb should always be used only after purification process.
The dose of purified Vatsanabha is – 60 – 125 mg

Toxic effects

Toxic effects of Aconitum ferox according to Ayurveda –
Sushruta has explained Torticollis (neck stiffness) and yellowish discoloration of eyes, stools and urine as toxic effects of Vatshanabhi.

The text book Rasaratna Samucchaya explains 8 stages of toxic effects of Vatsanabha. These stages refers to spreading of poison in different parts of the body. These stages are also dependent on level of toxicity and dosage of Vatsanabha.

  • 1st stage – Twak Vikara – skin rashes,
  • 2nd stage – Vepathu – tremors
  • 3rd stage – Daha – burning sensation all over the body.
  • 4th stage – Vikrata – deformity
  • 5th stage – phenodgati – frothing
  • 6th stage – skandha bhanga – drooping and wasting of shoulders.
  • 7th stage – Jadyata – wasting and comatose of whole body.
  • 8th stage – Marana – death.

More on aconite

Antidotes for Vatsanabha poisoning

The treatment for Vatsanabha is possible upto 5th stage only. – (Rasaratna Samucchaya)

a.  During Aconitum ferox toxicity due to over-dosage or usage without purification procedure, ghee along with Tankana bhasma is given.

b. Combination of  Honey, ghee and bark of Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is also used as antidote.

c. Whenever Vatsanabha is used in any formulation, Tankana Bhasma (Borax calx) is always used in equal quantity. If used so, it will nullify all the toxic effects of Vatsanabha and hence there will not be any toxic effects.

Example: Tribhuvana Kirti Ras – a potent Ayurvedic medicine used in fever, has both Vatsnabha and Tankana.

d. Vatsnabha used with equal quantity of Tankana (purified borax) and double quantity of black pepper (Maricha / Ushana) will not have any toxic effects.

Vatsanabh purification

Purification procedure – Vatsanabha Shodhana

One among the following method is followed for detoxification of Vatsanabha.

1. Aconitum ferox root is tied in a piece of cloth, kept dipped in cow urine. It is exposed to sunlight for three days. Each day, cow urine is replaced with fresh one. After third day, it is dried and preserved.

2. Aconitum ferox roots are made into pieces, tied in a piece of cloth, suspended in goat milk or cow milk, and heated for three hours.

3. Vatsanabha kept dipped in cow urine for three days, gets purified.

4. Vatsanabha is boiled by suspending it in Triphala decoction for three hours.


Evaluation of toxicity – Thin Layer Chromatography studies were conducted on Vatsanabha. Before and after purification readings were taken and compared. Studies showed that pseudoaconitine and aconitine were converted into far less toxic substances like veratroyl pseudoaconine and benzoylaconine respectively only in traditional Ayurvedic Shodhana.

Phyto-sociological features – This study concluded that the availability of Aconitum ferox and A. heterophyllum has decreased in alpine and subalpine regions of Kumaun Himalaya.

Indications, side effects, contraindications

  • While taking Vatsanabha, it is better to follow Abstinence. One should take cow’s milk, ghee, honey, sugar and rice.
  • All those food articles that cause increase of Pitta, like hot and pungent, sour, salty food stuff,  should be avoided.
  • It should not be taken during summer and rainy season, (where there are chances of Pitta increase).
  • It should be avoided in people with Pitta symptoms like – who are very angry, who have excessive thirst, hunger, excessive sun exposure, who have walked for long.
  • Sleeping in day time should be avoided.
  • It is contra indicated in pregnancy, lactation, and in early childhood, patients of cardiac, liver, kidney and brain diseases.
  • Vatsanabha can get absorbed through skin (sub cutaneous absorption). Hence, it should be handled very carefully.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Ayurvedic medicines

Important Ayurvedic medicines with Vatsanabha as ingredient:
Tamra parpati –
used in the treatment of  anemia, skin diseases etc 
Sanjivani Bati – used in Ayurvedic treatment of dyspepsia, indigestion, gastro-enteritis etc
Tribhuvan Kirti Ras –  used in the treatment of acute and chronic fever.
Kaphaketu Ras – used in the treatment of rhinitis, cough, cold, Asthma etc.
All the precautions, side effects and antidotes of Vatsanabha also apply to medicines prepared with it.

Proprietary Ayurvedic medicines containing Bachnag as ingredient:
Feverun Capsule manufactured by Mukti Pharma. It reduces body temperature in fever.

16 thoughts on “Vatsanabha (Aconitum ferox) Benefits, Toxic Effects, Purification, Dose”

  1. aconitum has cardiac sedative action so it shold not be given in more then 25mg at a time .otherwise it can make a TIA which may be fatal.

    • Hi, I do not have specific reason for it. Usually Vatsanabha with tankana is used in combination.
      Probably, Pippali with Hingula would nullify any adverse effects of Vatsanabha.

  2. Vatsanabha is boiled by suspending in Triphala decoction for three hours.

    Quantity of Triphala decoction is not mentioned?

    • Hi quantity of Triphala decoction depends on the size of vessel and the size of the vatsanabha pack. it should be sufficient enough to completely immerse the Vatsanabha pack.
      While boiling, due to evaporation, if the quantity of decoction reduces, then some more decoction is added into the vessel (pot) again.

  3. If someone is taking this herb for eczema and psoriasis but has high pitta as well, any suggestion for a cooling herb to go with it? Or taking it with dahi/yogurt should be cooling enough. Please suggest?

    • Regular consumption of half – 1 cup of milk or sweet Dahi is good to cool down the body.


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