Hemlock Water Dropwort

Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Dead Tongue, Five-Fingered Root, Horsebane, Nablo del Diablo, Navet du Diable, Oenanthe crocata, Oenanthe Safranée, Yellow Water Dropwort.


Hemlock water dropwort is a plant. The root is used to make medicine.

Be careful not to confuse hemlock water dropwort with similar sounding plants such as water hemlock and hemlock. Also be careful not to mistake the extremely poisonous hemlock water dropwort with other similar looking plants, such as wild parsnip, sweet flag, or pignut.

Hemlock water dropwort is used as a poultice for pimples, rashes, and other skin breakouts. A poultice is a warm, moist preparation of the herb that is contained in a sack and placed directly on the skin.

How does it work?

It is not known how hemlock water dropwort might work as a medicine.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Use as a poultice for skin breakouts.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of hemlock water dropwort for this use.

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).

Side Effects

Hemlock water dropwort is UNSAFE and poisonous. Swallowing even very small amounts of root may be fatal. Hemlock water dropwort contains a poison that might decrease nerve signals to the brain. Get medical attention immediately if hemlock water dropwort is taken by mouth. Signs of poisoning include nausea, dizziness, stomach pain, vomiting, sweating, drooling, blood in the urine, weakness, confusion, slurred speech, muscle spasm, increased breathing rate, turning blue, exhaustion, seizure, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death.

It is not known if hemlock water dropwort is safe for use on the skin or what the side effects might be. But since it is known to be poisonous if accidentally swallowed, especially to children, it is a dangerous substance to handle and use should be avoided.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Hemlock water dropwort isn't safe for anyone to use. Some people are especially sensitive to the poisonous effects and should be especially careful to avoid use.

Children: Keep children away from hemlock water dropwort. Children have been accidentally poisoned after eating the plant's roots.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Hemlock water dropwort is UNSAFE for anyone to use, but women who are pregnant or breast-feeding have the health of their babies as extra reasons to avoid use.


The appropriate dose of hemlock water dropwort 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 water dropwort. 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.

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Anger JP, Anger F, Chauvel Y, et al. [Fatal poisoning by water dropwort]. Eur J Toxicol Environ Hyg 1976;9:119-25. View abstract.

Ball MJ, Flather ML, Forfar JC. Hemlock water dropwort poisoning. Postgrad Med J 1987;63:363-5. View abstract.

Fitzgerald P, Moss N, O'Mahony S, Whelton MJ. Accidental hemlock poisoning. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1657.

Mitchell MI, Routledge PA. Hemlock water dropwort poisoning-a review. Clin Toxicol 1978;12:417-26. View abstract.