Yellow jessamine (botanical name Gelsemium sempervirens) is a perennially growing vine that often grows up to a length of about 40 feet. However, the growth of this evergreen twine is entirely dependent on its support system. Yellow jessamine produces shiny green leaves that are anything between two and four inches in length and grow the length of the plant's stem in reverse pairs. This vine bears clusters of scented yellow flowers that resemble funnels during the early part of spring.
The attraction of the sweetly aromatic and vividly hued flowers of yellow jessamine camouflages the fact that it encloses a lethal poison whose fatal consequences have often been measured up to that of the hemlock. Any person or animal consuming any part of the plant is likely to experience intense sufferings which may vary from paralysis to even death with no loss of consciousness taking place. It may be noted that even the bees that help in pollinating the yellow jessamine are sometimes poisoned by the flowers and the vines.
This eye-catching vine is indigenous to the southern regions of the United States and adjoining areas of Mexico. Yellow jessamine has a wooded stem that winds around any tree trunk that is in the vicinity. This plant is found growing naturally on sea coasts as well as banks of streams. Yellow jessamine has a rhizome or stem under the ground and from this rhizome crop up a mesh of yellow roots that are also fragrant. The root of this herb is used in preparing a homeopathic medication and, if consumed by any person or animal in excessive dosages, it influences the central nervous system in such a manner that the victim may endure paralysis or even die owing to failure of the nerves as well as the muscles of the respiratory tract. In homeopathy, the medication prepared from the root of yellow jessamine is used to cure mental as well as physical symptoms.
Its lethal properties notwithstanding, there was a time when the yellow jessamine served therapeutic purposes. In the 19th century, an assortment of medical preparations made from the yellow jessamine root was employed in the form of antispasmodics, analgesics, sedatives, as well as agents for reducing fevers. In fact, this herb was a popular remedy for asthma and whooping cough. In earlier times, a tea prepared from the flowers of yellow jessamine was recommended for use to treat shortness of breath, coughs, and pleurisy as well as stomach disorders. It is fortunate enough that by the early 20th century the use of yellow jessamine as a medicine declined greatly as there was more and more awareness of the fact that every part of this vine is perilously poisonous.
It may be mentioned that South Carolina has adopted the yellow jessamine as its state flower. According to reports the South Carolina General Assembly approved the yellow jessamine to be the state flower with the anticipation that the flower's regular return around the end of the winter would convey a significance of loyalty and patriotism to the people. In fact, a native of South Carolina had written that in the “Legend of the Yellow Jessamine' - a turn of century poem” that there is no other flower that is so aromatic akin to winning kindness and sympathy. He had further written in the poem that no matter at what place this sheltering plant or vine grows, it is a hugging yellow jessamine vine.
Indigenous inhabitants of the America employed yellow jessamine in the form of a blood purifier. Of late, a farmer from Mississippi has exposed a new therapeutic property of yellow jessamine by chance mistaking the root of the vine to be for a different medicinal herb and successfully curing fever using it. As mentioned above, the root, for that matter all parts, of yellow jessamine are highly poisonous. Ingestion of a small amount of it, for instance just a teaspoon, may result in debility, vertigo and even death owing to the paralysis of the respiratory muscles. In fact, yellow jessamine encloses substances that slow down the functioning of the nervous system - an action which makes the root of this plant useful in the form of an antispasmodic, painkiller or analgesic and also a sedative. At present, yellow jessamine is only employed in homeopathic medications that are used to cure fever, acute phobias as well as paroxysmal coughing.
It may be noted that yellow jessamine is always prescribed in small doses in the form of an antispasmodic and sedative, generally to cure neuralgia - pain due to irritation or damage of the nerve. Very frequently, yellow jessamine is also given to people enduring nerve pain that affects the face. In addition, this plant is also applied externally to cure intercostals neuralgia (throbbing nerves between the ribs) as well as sciatica (pain due to pressure on any nerve in the lower part of the spine). The antispasmodic attribute of yellow jessamine is used to treat asthma and whooping cough. Sometimes, this herb is taken internally to cure insomnia, migraine and bowel disorders. It is also used to bring down high blood pressure.
The roots of yellow jessamine possess diaphoretic, analgesic, hypnotic, febrifuge, nervine, mydriatic, vasodilator and sedative properties. It is also a very potent sedative of the central nervous system and helps to reduce pain and lessen spasms. It is believed that yellow jessamine root helps to suspend and also curb muscular tetchiness as well as nervous exhilaration with additional strength and influence compared to any other familiar medication. While the roots of this herb unwind the muscles, they also alleviate every sensation of pain. The roots of yellow jessamine are also used internally to cure meningitis, toothache and acute pain, particularly in terminal ailments and accidents. It is used externally in the form of a traditional medication for treating cancer.
Autumn is the ideal time to harvest the roots of yellow jessamine and soon after unearthing, the roots are dried up cautiously for use when necessary. It is advisable that people handling this plant or using it should exercise extreme precaution. In fact, this herb should be strictly used under the direction of a competent and qualified medical practitioner.
Taking the herb in large doses may result in slowing down of the respiratory functioning, nausea, double vision and eventually death. Here is a word of caution. Medications prepared from yellow jessamine should never be prescribed for people enduring hypotension, heart ailments or myasthenia gravis. The fresh root of yellow jessamine is employed to prepare a homeopathic medication that is used to treat various health conditions, counting headaches, flu, and fever.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The toxic vine yellow jessamine has its origin in North America and is found growing in the wild over a vast area having damp fertile soil the length of the East Coast right from Virginia down towards Florida and southwards into Mexico. In addition, yellow jessamine may also be found growing in the woodlands of the south-eastern areas of the United States.
Yellow jessamine needs a warm and sheltered location that receives full sunlight or is in partial shade. In addition, the plant has a preference for a soil that can retain moisture and is reasonably fertile. If grown in rich soil, the plant does not flower easily, but has an excessive growth. Yellow jessamine vines have the aptitude to endure temperatures as low as -10ºC provided the wood has been completely matured. Being an ornamental plant, the flowers of yellow jessamine are amiably aromatic giving out a scent akin to that of honey. Yellow jessamine is essentially a climbing vine and supports itself by winding around other plants growing in the vicinity. Very often this plant grows to such lengths that it almost ascends to the top of lofty trees in the area where it is growing.
Yellow jessamine is propagated by its seeds that are ideally sown during the spring in a warm greenhouse. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently to be handled, prick them out individually and plant them in separate pots or containers and continue to grow them in the greenhouse till they are about two years old. The young yellow jessamine plants may be transplanted in their permanent positions outdoors during the early part of the summer in their second year of existence. Even when they are planted outdoors, they require some amount of protection from the winter cold for at least another year of their existence.
Chemical analysis of yellow jessamine has revealed that this herb encloses compounds like indole alkaloids, such as gelsedine and gelsemine, coumarins, iridoids and tannins. The alkaloids present in yellow jessamine are toxic by nature and work in the form of a depressant to the central nervous system (CNS).
Side effects and cautions
People who are taking any therapeutic preparations from yellow jessamine or intend doing so ought to be aware of the side effects caused by this herb and adopt certain precautions. As mentioned above, all the parts of the yellow jessamine vine are highly toxic and can even result in death if consumed. This plant is known to enclose toxic alkaloids that are related to strychnine - such as gelseminine and gelsemine, and, therefore, ought not to be eaten. It is very likely that children may mistake this flower for honeysuckle and be poisoned when they suck the nectar from these deadly flowers. In fact, the nectar of yellow jessamine is also poisonous for the honeybees that help in pollinating them and often results in brood death when the nectar is collected by these bees. In fact, toxicity has also been reported in animals which have foraged on yellow jessamine.
Notwithstanding the perils of using yellow jessamine, it has other uses. This is one of the preferred garden plants in comparatively warm locations, more often than not made to grow on top of arbors or to swathe the walls.
Although yellow jessamine is rarely used therapeutically these days, its roots are used to prepare a homeopathic medication. Taking the medication in excessive or large doses may result in giddiness, double vision, paralysis of the spinal cord and even lead to just about total loss of muscular power and eventual death.
It has been reported that consuming even one flower of yellow jessamine may prove to be fatal for children. In addition, use of this plant may result in some type of skin allergies in people and it is also likely that the toxic substances enclosed by the plant may be soaked up by the skin, particularly if an individual has any cut or wounds. In this case, the symptoms of poisoning may comprise sweating, queasiness, muscular debility, widened pupils, convulsions or spasms and/ or lower body temperatures. It may be noted here that accidental consumption of any part of this plant requires emergency treatment.
The yellow jessamine's alkaloids are extremely poisonous. It has been reported that consumption of even a small amount, for instance 4 ml of a fluid extract, may prove to be fatal.
How it works in the body
Yellow jessamine encloses substances that may possible work in the brain to alleviate or lessen pain.