Chuan Wu (Radix Aconiti)

What Is Chuan Wu

Chuan Wu also known as Radix Aconiti is the mother root of Aconitum carmichaelii, which is an erect perennial herb belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Shennong Ben Cao Jing> in the late Western Han Dynasty (about 100 BC).

Aconitum carmichaelii Debx commonly known as Wu Tou, Chinese aconite, Carmichael’s monkshood, or Chinese wolfsbane is a flowering plant. They often grow in mountain grass slopes or shrubs at an altitude of 100 to 2,200 meters. They are mainly distributed in China and Vietnam.

Aconitum carmichaelii

All parts of Aconitum carmichaelii are extremely toxic, and it has historically been used as a poison on arrows. If we use it incorrectly, it may cause fatal danger.

In the 75th chapter of the novel <The Romance of the Three Kingdoms>, it is recorded that Guan Yu was stabbed by a poisonous arrow and Hua Tuo scraped the bones for Guan Yu to treat poison. According to legend, the arrow-poison in Guan Yu’s right arm at that time was the poison of Chuan Wu.

During the Three Kingdoms period, Wei, Shu, and Wu were at war all year round. Once, Guan Yu led his soldiers to attack Wei, his right arm was penetrated by the enemy’s poisoned arrow. Later, although the wound on his right arm healed, his right arm would be painful in every rainy weather.

His friends cared about him very much and looked for famous doctors everywhere for him. Soon, there was a doctor named Hua Tuo. He said that he heard that Guan Yu had been poisoned by a poisoned arrow, and he came to heal him.

Hua Tuo told Guan Yu that the poison from the arrow had spread to his bones. If you ask me to treat it, I need to cut your arm, scrape the toxins from the bones, apply herbs, and then suture the wound to heal it. Guan Yu did not hesitate after hearing this and immediately allowed Hua Tuo to start treating him. After that, Hua Tuo cured the pain in Guan Yu’s right arm.

Clinically, there will be no scraping bones to cure poison. But this story tells people to solve the problem fundamentally.

From late June to early August each year, people gather the mother roots of Aconitum carmichaelii, remove their daughter roots, fibrous roots, and impurities, wash them with water, dry them in the sun, use them directly, or soak them in water, boil them, and cut them into pieces, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Chuan Wu contains a variety of diterpene alkaloids, such as aconitine, mesaconitine, hypaconitine, talatizamine, karacoline, neoline, fuziline, benzoylmesaconine, benzoylhypaconine, 3-deoxyaconitine, crassicauline A, yunaconitine, hypaconine, mesaconine, ignavine, beiwutine, aconifine, etc. It also contains aurantiamide acetate, cytochalasin B2, flavonoids, saponins, polysaccharides, and ceramides.

In general, the solid Chuan Wu with a white cross-section is preferred.

According to <Shennong Ben Cao Jing>, the medicinal property of Chuan Wu is relatively hot, with violent toxicity and a pungent and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the heart, liver, kidney, and spleen meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Chuan Wu is often used to expel wind and eliminate dampness, warm meridians and alleviate pain, treat rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, knee arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibrositis, lumbar muscle strain, Sciatica, calcaneal spurs, chorea minor, myasthenia gravis, cold pain in the heart and abdomen, cold hernia, and alopecia areata.

There are about 60 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Wu Tou Tang, Xiao Huo Luo Wan, Hui Sheng Xu Ming Dan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced swelling of the mouse ear, and carrageenan-induced swelling of the mouse ankle joint.
  • Inhibiting chronic inflammatory pain, neuropathic pain, acute pain, and cancer pain.
  • Anti-cancer, inhibiting the invasion and metastasis of A549 lung cancer cells and inducing apoptosis of esophageal cancer EC-1 cells, HepG2 cells, and human pancreatic cancer cells.
  • Inhibiting the apoptosis of vascular endothelial cells and the up-regulation of the cardiac hypertrophy factors ANP, BNP, β-MHC, and F-actin, and protecting the cardiovascular system.
  • Lowering the previously elevated white blood cell count, serum anti-double-stranded DNA antibody levels and PGE2, IL-17a, IL-6 levels, reducing the deposition of IgG in glomerular tissues, and improving renal tissue pathological damage and systemic lupus erythematosus pathological damage.
  • Expelling wind and eliminating dampness, treating rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and relieving joint pain, muscular stiffness, and joint immobilization.
  • Warming meridians, dispelling cold-dampness, treating limb cramps, muscle spasms, and disadvantageous flexion and extension of joints caused by blood stagnation in meridians.
  • Treating cold pain in the heart and abdomen, cold pain in the heart, and back pain caused by the yin-cold excess.
  • Treating cold hernia, relieving abdominal pain around the belly button, and serious cold pain in limbs.
  • Alleviating traumatic injury and treating swelling and pain caused by a fracture.
  • Studies have found that small doses of aconitine have a heart-strengthening effect and can be used to treat bradyarrhythmias. It can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
  • Its alkaloids can anesthetize peripheral nerves and can be used as mucosal surface anesthesia in clinical practice.
  • It contains aconitine, and it is clinically proven that aconitine injection can alleviate the pain of advanced cancer in the digestive system.


  • It can be used in combination with Ma Huang (Ephedra), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) to treat severe joint pain and muscular stiffness, and joint immobilization caused by cold-dampness.
  • It can be used in combination with Cao Wu (Radix Aconiti Agrestis), Di Long (Earthworm), and Ru Xiang (Frankincense) to treat limb spasms, muscle spasms, and disadvantageous flexion and extension of joints caused by blood stagnation in meridians.
  • It can be used in combination with Chi Shi Zhi (Halloysitum Rubrum), Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger), and Hua Jiao (Pericarpium Zanthoxyli) to treat cold pian in the heart and back pain caused by the yin-cold excess.
  • It can be used in combination with Zi Ran Tong (Pyrite), Di Long (Earthworm), and Wu Yao (Radix Linderae) to alleviate traumatic injury.
  • It can be used as a local anesthetic in combination with Chan Su (Venenum Bufonis), Tian Nan Xing (Rhizoma Arisaematis), and Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), and is suitable for surgical analgesia and trauma analgesia.

Side Effects

Chuan Wu is poisonous and its main toxic component is diterpene alkaloids. The toxic effects of such ingredients include cardiotoxicity and neurotoxicity. Liver toxicity, reproductive toxicity.

The toxic causes include taking it by mistake, overdose, taking Chuan Wu decoction with a short decoction time, and taking unprocessed Chuan Wu liquor.

The toxic symptoms include numbness of the tongue, limbs, and body, salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, slow pulse, dyspnea, twitching of hands and feet, confusion, incontinence, decreased blood pressure, decreased body temperature, and heart rate disturbance, Ventricular phase contraction and sinus arrest.

In severe cases, it can cause circulatory failure, respiratory failure, severe heart rate disturbances, and even death.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Chuan Wu should be controlled at 1.5-3g. Generally, it does not allow excessive consumption.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, or mashed for external use.
  • When making its decoction, it is recommended to boil it first and decoct it for a long time.
  • People who are allergic to Chuan Wu should not take it.
  • It should not be used with Chuan Bei Mu (Fritillaria Cirrhosa), Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), Bai Ji (Rhizoma Bletillae), Bai Lian (Ampelopsis Radix), Tian Hua Fen (Radix Trichosanthis), or Gua Lou (Fructus Trichosanthis).
  • It is not recommended to take unprocessed Chuan Wu orally.
  • It is not recommended to take medicinal wine containing unprocessed Chuan wu, it may cause poisoning.
  • It should not be used to relieve pain caused by heat symptom complex. Taking it may aggravate the pain.
  • People with yang hyperactivity due to Yin deficiency should not take it.
  • It should not be taken by people who are weak or weak in heart function.
  • Pregnant women, children, and the elderly should not take it.

Treatment for poisoning

If the patient takes it and causes adverse reactions, please seek medical attention in time.

The following treatment methods for poisoning are for reference only, please refer to the doctor’s diagnosis.

  • In the early stage of poisoning, it is recommended to induce vomiting, catharsis, or high enema.
  • Infusion is recommended to supplement body fluids and electrolytes lost due to vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Atropine injection can relieve visceral colic caused by poisoning.
  • If the patient has frequent premature beats or paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, lidocaine and procaine can be used to treat the patient.