Both "chuanwu", the main root of Aconitum carmichaeli, and "caowu", the root of A kusnezoffii, are believed to possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic and cardiotonic effects and have been used in Chinese materia medica mainly for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. They contain the highly toxic C19 diterpenoid alkaloids of aconitine, mesaconitine and hypaconitine. After ingestion, patients may present with signs and symptoms that are typical of aconitine poisoning. Death may occur from ventricular arrhythmias, which are most likely to occur within the first 24 h. Management of aconitine poisoning is essentially supportive. There are no adequate studies in humans to indicate the most effective treatment of the ventricular arrhythmias. All clinicians should be alerted to the potential toxicity of "chuanwu" and "caowu".