The medicinal parts of the plant are the fresh flowering foliage, the branches, and the dried leaves.
Flower and Fruit
The plant has white flowers in 10 to 20 rayed umbels. The 3 to 5 triangular to lanceolate bracts are acuminate; 3 to 6 small bracts appear on the outside of the small umbels. The blossoms have 1.5-mm white petals. The fruit is ovate with undulating veins. Deep indentations on the mericarp on the seam side—with no oil marks in the indentations—are a unique feature.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
The plant can be annual or perennial; it grows up to 2 m high. The stem is erect, tubular, hollow, round, and finely grooved. It is branched above, glabrous, with brownish-red marks below. The leaves are a glossy dark green, tripinnate. The root is whitish and fusiform or branched.
When wilting, the highly poisonous herb smells of mice. It tastes disgustingly salty and pungent. The stem has distinctive red marks.
The plant is indigenous to Europe and the temperate zones of Asia, North Africa, and North and South America.
Hemlock is the fresh or dried leaves and the flowering branch tips of Conium maculatum. They are gathered from June to September in the second year of grown and air-dried in a shaded, open location.
Not to be Confused With
Hemlock may be confused with water hemlock, canine parsley, wild chervil, and with tuberous chervil.
Beaver Poison, California Fern, Cicuta, Herb Bennet, Kecksies, Kex, Musquash Root, Poison Parsley, Poison Root, Poison Snakeweed, Spotted Crowbane, Spotted Hemlock, Spotted Parsley, Water Parsley, Winter Fern, Spotted Corobane
Actions & Pharmacology
Piperidin alkaloids: main alkaloid coniine, including, among others, N-methyl coniine, gamma-coniceine
The piperidin alkaloids are volatile and are likely to be present in toxicologically harmful quantities only in the freshly harvested plant, particularly in its berries, and in the freshly dried plant.
Polyynes: including falcarinol, falcarindiol
Furanocoumarins: including bergaptene, xanthotoxin
The plant is poisonous. The effects of the drug are caused by coniine in particular. Toxic doses given to mice, rats, guinea pigs, and cats provoked the autonomous ganglion, clonic, and tonal contractions of individual limbs, cramps, and eventually, paralysis. Small doses given to mice led to blood pressure reduction in the short term. Higher doses resulted in a rise in blood pressure. Smaller doses stimulated respiration in cats, while higher doses impeded or slowed down the initial stimulus. In isolated guinea pig ileum, coniine brought on contractions. In isolated perfused rabbit hearts, coniine was negatively inotropic while a stable heartbeat was maintained. With anesthetized cats, a suppression of the muscle contraction reflex took place. Feeding or injecting lethal doses of coniine into cows, horses, pigs, sheep, and hamsters was initially stimulating, producing twitching of the eyes and ears, which was followed by muscular debility, collapse, limpness and death through paralysis. Coniine absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes is stimulating at first, then causes gradual paralysis of the spinal cord and blockage of the medulla oblongata. Nicotine-like receptors are at first activated, then paralyzed.
Indications & Usage
Use is inadvisable due to the uncontrollable amounts of coniine. Formerly, in folk medicine, the drug was used internally for neuralgia, rheumatism of the muscles and joints, stiffness of the neck, tetanic and epileptic cramps, bronchial spasms, and pylori spasms. Externally, the drug was used as an ointment for coughs, asthma, sciatica, backache, and neuralgia.
Swollen glands, paresis, calcification of cerebral vessels, and depressive moods are considered to be indications for use in homeopathy.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
The drug is severely poisonous and use is not advised.
The drug has a teratogenic effect with chronic intake.
Symptoms of poisoning following intake of toxic quantities (corresponding to 150 mg coniine, approximately 10 g of the freshly dried berries, approximately 30 g of the freshly dried leaves) include burning of the mouth, scratchy throat, salivation, rolling of the eyes, visual disorders, and weakness in the legs. Lethal dosages (corresponding to approximately 500 mg coniine) cause glossoplegia, mydriasis, pressure in the head, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of orientation, rising central paralysis, dyspepsia, and cyanosis. Death ultimately results through central asphyxiation, in the cases of very high dosages, and also through curarelike paralysis of the breathing musculature.
Following stomach and intestinal emptying (gastric lavage, sodium sulfate) and the administration of activated charcoal, plasma volume expanders and sodium bicarbonate infusions should be given in case of shock or to restore acidosis balance. If necessary, intubation and respiration should be carried out.
Mode of Administration
Hemlock is obsolete and strongly advised against as an internal drug because of the danger of poisoning. Homeopathic dilutions and ointments containing hemlock are used externally.
Liquid rubs, ointments.
Use is discouraged, but the maximum single dose mentioned for internal use is 0.3 g, not to exceed 1.5 g, per day. The standard single dose is 0.1 g.
5 drops, 1 tablet, or 10 globules every 30 to 60 minutes (acute) or 1 to 3 times daily (chronic); parenterally: 1 to 2 mL sc acute, 3 times daily; chronic: once a day; ointment 1 to 2 times daily (HAB34).
Hemlock should be stored above caustic lime, well dried, in closed containers and kept for no more than one year.