Hemlock is native to Europe and western Asia and was introduced into North America as an ornamental plant. It is frequently found in the US and southern Canada. Hemlock typically grows near fences, roadsides, ditches, abandoned construction sites, pastures, crops, and fields, where it can be confused with harmless plants. Accidental poisonings have occurred when people mistook the root for parsnip, leaves for parsley, or seeds for anise.
Despite serious safety concerns, hemlock leaves, root, and seeds are used to make medicine. It is used for breathing problems including bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma; and for painful conditions including teething in children, swollen and painful joints, and cramps.
Hemlock is also used for anxiety and mania. Other uses include treatment of spasms tumors, skin infections, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Sydenham's chorea, and bladder infections.
Hemlock has also been used to reverse strychnine poisoning.
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