Harman Patil (Editor)


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Kingdom  Plantae
Family  Gelsemiaceae
Higher classification  Loganiaceae
Order  Gentianales
Scientific name  Gelsemium
Rank  Genus
Gelsemium httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons99

Lower classifications  Gelsemium sempervirens, Heartbreak grass

Gelsemium sempervirens carolina jessamine blooming at the crosby arboretum january 2012

Gelsemium is an Asian and North American genus of flowering plants belonging to family Gelsemiaceae. The genus contains three species of shrubs to straggling or twining climbers. Two species are native to North America, and one to China and Southeast Asia.


Carl Linnaeus first classified G. sempervirens as Bignonia sempervirens in 1753; Antoine Laurent de Jussieu renamed the genus in 1789. Gelsemium is a Latinized form of the Italian word for jasmine, gelsomino. G. elegans is also nicknamed "heartbreak grass".

yellow jessamine shrub gelsemium sempervirens yellow trumpets


All three species of this genus are poisonous.

Active Components

The active components of gelsemium are the alkaloids, which are present in a concentration of about 0.5%. These consist primarily of gelsemine (a highly toxic compound related to strychnine), with lesser amounts of related compounds (gelsemicine, gelsedine, etc). Other compounds found in the plant include scopoletin (also called gelsemic acid), a small amount of volatile oil, fatty acid and tannins.

Gelsemium has been shown to contain methoxyindoles.

Medicinal uses

As late as 1906, a drug called Gelsemium D 3, made from the rhizome and rootlets of Gelsemium sempervirens, was used in the treatment of facial and other neuralgias. It also proved valuable in some cases of malarial fever, and was occasionally used as a cardiac depressant and in spasmodic affections, but was inferior for this purpose to other remedies.

Alleged poisoning victims

  • In December 2011 Chinese billionaire Long Liyuan was killed when the cat-stew that he was eating was allegedly poisoned with Gelsemium elegans.
  • A lawyer for the deceased's life insurance company told a pre-inquest hearing that toxicology reports had identified traces of gelsemium in the body of Alexander Perepilichny. Perepilichny died outside his UK home on 10 November 2012 after warning of Kremlin death threats related to the Magnitsky affair.
  • Symptoms of poisoning

    The poison affects the vision and respiration. Symptoms can appear almost immediately.


    Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes series, once administered himself a small amount of gelsemium and kept increasing the amount every day until he could no longer stand the ill effects. In a letter written by him to the British Medical Journal on 20 September 1879, he described that he had persistent diarrhoea, severe frontal headache, and great depression, and therefore stopped his self-experimentation at 200 minims.


    Gelsemium Wikipedia