Used topically as an analgesic in Chinese medicine , this under-appreciated and highly poisonous plant's medicinal benefits and beauty make a lovely pair.
In Greek legend, monkshood originated from the foam dripping from the fangs of the three-headed dog Cerberus that Herakles (Hercules) brought up from the underworld. Also Hecate, the Greek goddess of the moon, ghosts, witches, and magic, poisoned her father with monkshood.
In the Middle Ages witches were associated with monkshood. Since it numbs the senses and gives a sensation of flying, they are said to have smeared it on their bodies and broomsticks.
The name monkshood comes from its hood-shaped flowers.
A. napellus, monkshood, is the source of the drug aconite; it was formerly used to make a deadly poison; Shakespeare’s Romeo killed himself with a cup of it.