Question: Which plant, known as the “heartbreak grass” has been posited as a homicidal agent used by the government of Vladimir Putin?
Answer: Plants of the genus Gelsemium are also known as “heartbreak grass” and have been posited as a homicidal agent used by the government of Vladimir Putin. The cited reference notes “All three species of Gelsemium are highly poisonous. The leaves, stems and roots are equally toxic, and consuming the plant has been used as a method to commit suicide and homicide. Experimental work indicates that typical symptoms of intoxication include sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, muscular weakness, limb paralysis, dilated pupils, breathing difficulty, coma and convulsion. In instances of severe poisoning, the nervous system is depressed and death is caused by respiratory depression. (Jin GL et al. Medicinal plants of the genus Gelsemium (Gelsemiaceae, Gentianales)—A review of their phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and traditional use. 2014 J Ethnopharm 152:33-52)