California Fern, Carrot Weed, Cicuta, Ciguë, Ciguë d'Athènes, Ciguë Officinale, Ciguë de Socrate, Ciguë Tachetée, Conium, Conium Maculata, Conium maculatum, Grande Ciguë, Mort aux Oies, Nebraska Fern, Poison Fool's Parsley, Poison-Hemlock, Spotted Hemlock, Tsuga, Vicaire, Wild Carrot.
Hemlock is a very poisonous plant. In fact, all parts of the plant are toxic. Hemlock is most poisonous during the early stages of growth in the spring, but it is dangerous at all stages of growth. The poisons in hemlock are so deadly that people have died after eating game birds that had eaten hemlock seeds.
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 has also been used to reverse strychnine poisoning.
How does it work?
Hemlock contains poisons that affect the transmission of nerve impulses to muscle. Death occurs by respiratory failure.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Muscle spasms.
- Teething in children.
- Whooping cough.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
All parts of hemlock, including seeds, flowers, and fruits, are UNSAFE. Hemlock is so poisonous it can cause death. If someone takes hemlock, he or she should get immediate medical attention. Side effects and toxicities include increased saliva, burning of the digestive tract, drowsiness, muscle pain, rapid swelling and stiffening of muscles, kidney damage, rapid breakdown of muscle tissue and release of muscle tissue byproducts into the blood, rapid heart rate followed by a decreased heart rate, loss of speech, paralysis, unconsciousness, heart, lung, and kidney failure, and death.
Children: Use of hemlock is UNSAFE and can be fatal, especially in children. Children can be poisoned by even small amounts of hemlock. Some children have died after eating leaves or using hollow hemlock stems as peashooters, flutes, or whistles. Hemlock should not be used for treating pain in children due to teething.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Use of hemlock is UNSAFE and can be fatal.
The appropriate dose of hemlock depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for hemlock. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Biberci, E., Altuntas, Y., Cobanoglu, A., and Alpinar, A. Acute respiratory arrest following hemlock (Conium maculatum) intoxication. J.Toxicol.Clin.Toxicol. 2002;40(4):517-518. View abstract.
Blythe, W. B. Hemlock poisoning, acute renal failure, and the Bible. Ren Fail. 1993;15(5):653. View abstract.
Brenet, O., Roy, P. M., Harry, P., Guinaudeau, H., and Alquier, P. [Hemlock poisoning: an occasionally benign course]. Presse Med. 1-20-1996;25(2):82. View abstract.
Cummings, S. and Ullman, D. Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc;1984.
Daugherty, C. G. The death of Socrates and the toxicology of hemlock. J.Med.Biogr. 1995;3(3):178-182. View abstract.
Davies, M. L. and Davies, T. A. Hemlock: murder before the Lord. Med Sci Law 1994;34(4):331-333. View abstract.
Drummer, O. H., Roberts, A. N., Bedford, P. J., Crump, K. L., and Phelan, M. H. Three deaths from hemlock poisoning. Med.J.Aust. 6-5-1995;162(11):592-593. View abstract.
Fitzgerald, P., Moss, N., O'Mahony, S., and Whelton, M. J. Accidental hemlock poisoning. Br.Med.J.(Clin.Res.Ed) 12-19-1987;295(6613):1657. View abstract.
Foster, P. F., McFadden, R., Trevino, R., Galliardt, S., Kopczewski, L. A., Gugliuzza, K., Gonzalez, Z., and Wright, F. Successful transplantation of donor organs from a hemlock poisoning victim. Transplantation 9-15-2003;76(5):874-876. View abstract.
Frank, B. S., Michelson, W. B., Panter, K. E., and Gardner, D. R. Ingestion of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). West J.Med. 1995;163(6):573-574. View abstract.
Geehr, E. Common toxic plant ingestions. Emerg.Med Clin North Am 1984;2(3):553-562. View abstract.
Gibbs, D. Dr John Andree, MD (Rheims) LRCP, founding physician of the London Hospital. J Med Biogr. 2003;11(2):87-94. View abstract.
MacLaughlin, B. W., Gutsmuths, B., Pretner, E., Jonas, W. B., Ives, J., Kulawardane, D. V., and Amri, H. Effects of homeopathic preparations on human prostate cancer growth in cellular and animal models. Integr.Cancer Ther 2006;5(4):362-372. View abstract.
Montemurro, N. E., Di Maggio, A., Strippoli, P., Coviello, F., Godino, F., Miloro, G., and Scatizzi, A. Combined dialysis and plasma-exchange in acute renal failure. Biomater.Artif.Cells Immobilization Biotechnol. 1993;21(2):283-287. View abstract.
Oztekin-Mat, A. [Plant poisoning cases in Turkey]. Ann Pharm Fr. 1994;52(5):260-265. View abstract.
Reynolds, T. Hemlock alkaloids from Socrates to poison aloes. Phytochemistry 2005;66(12):1399-1406. View abstract.
Rizzi, D., Basile, C., Di Maggio, A., Sebastio, A., Introna, F., Jr., Rizzi, R., Bruno, S., Scatizzi, A., and De Marco, S. Rhabdomyolysis and acute tubular necrosis in coniine (hemlock) poisoning. Lancet 12-16-1989;2(8677):1461-1462. View abstract.
Rizzi, D., Basile, C., Di Maggio, A., Sebastio, A., Introna, F., Jr., Rizzi, R., Scatizzi, A., De Marco, S., and Smialek, J. E. Clinical spectrum of accidental hemlock poisoning: neurotoxic manifestations, rhabdomyolysis and acute tubular necrosis. Nephrol.Dial.Transplant. 1991;6(12):939-943. View abstract.
Rizzi, D., Introna, F., Jr., Gagliano, Candela R., Di Nunno, C., Ricco, R., Recchia, R., and De, Michele, V. [Toxic rhabdomyolysis and tubular necrosis in hemlock poisoning. 4 case reports]. Clin.Ter. 2-15-1988;124(3):193-201. View abstract.
Romano, E., Russo, V., Gullo, A., and Valenti, S. [Hemlock poisoning. Clinical contribution]. Minerva Anestesiol. 1978;44(1):45-48. View abstract.
Scatizzi, A., Di Maggio, A., Rizzi, D., Sebastio, A. M., and Basile, C. Acute renal failure due to tubular necrosis caused by wildfowl-mediated hemlock poisoning. Ren Fail. 1993;15(1):93-96. View abstract.
Schweppe, K. W. and Probst, C. [The attempts at drug therapy of cancer by Anton Storck (1731-1803). History of experimental pharmacology in the old Vienna Medical School]. Wien.Med Wochenschr. 3-15-1982;132(5):107-117. View abstract.
Thangapazham, R. L., Gaddipati, J. P., Rajeshkumar, N. V., Sharma, A., Singh, A. K., Ives, J. A., Maheshwari, R. K., and Jonas, W. B. Homeopathic medicines do not alter growth and gene expression in prostate and breast cancer cells in vitro. Integr.Cancer Ther 2006;5(4):356-361. View abstract.
Vetter, J. Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum L.). Food Chem.Toxicol. 2004;42(9):1373-1382. View abstract.
Carod-Artal FJ. [Neurological syndromes linked with the intake of plants and fungi containing a toxic component (I). Neurotoxic syndromes caused by the ingestion of plants, seeds and fruits]. Rev Neurol 2003;36:860-71. View abstract.
Drummer OH, Roberts AN, Bedford PJ, et al. Three deaths from hemlock poisoning. Med J Aust 1995;162:592-3.
Frank BS, Panter KE. Ingestion of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). West J Med 1995;163:573-4.
Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis JM. Hemlock ingestions: the most deadly plant exposures. NACCT Abstracts 1996: Abstract #131.
Lopez TA, Cid MS, Bianchini ML. Biochemistry of hemlock (Conium maculatum L.) alkaloids and their acute and chronic toxicity in livestock. A review. Toxicon 1999;37:841-65. View abstract.
Panter KE, Keeler RF, Baker DC. Toxicosis in livestock from the hemlocks (Conium and Cicuta spp.). J Anim Sci 1988;66:2407-13. View abstract.