[nafex] Hemlock ... not to drink ... or to drink ... not

Ginda Fisher ginda at concentric.net
Tue May 8 20:30:36 EDT 2001

What Lucky didn't say (although maybe it's obvious from the latin names)
is that the poison hemlock is not related to the common "hemlock", which
is a not-especially-toxic evergreen tree or large shrub.  (Currently
threatened with extinction by the woolly algelid, which thinks they're


Lucky Pittman wrote:
> At 09:14 PM 05/07/2001 -0400, Joelwrote:
> >I received an inquiry beyond my scope of knowledge of
> >plants.
> >The great scholars of ancient Greece talk about the use of
> >hemlock as a *poison* potion.
> >Question: what part(s) of the plant are used and how is the
> >potion prepared?
> Joel,
> I went back and dug out my old poisonous plant notes from vet school.
> Poison Hemlock - Conium maculatum - toxic principles are alkaloids &
> resinoids: coniine and coniceine and others.       In addition to the
> classical toxicity, it also produces teratogenic effects in developing fetus.
> Stems, leaves, and mature fruits are toxic. Leaves are more dangerous in
> the springtime, and the fruits are most dangerous in the fall.  Roots
> contain lowest level of toxins.
> Clinical signs: excessive salivation, nervousness, partial to total
> paralysis of hind limbs; staggers, dilation of eye, slow respiration and
> pulse - then rapid increase, coldness of extremities, coma and eventual
> death due to respiratory paralysis.  "Mousy" odor detectable in
> rumen/stomach contents and urine.
> Symptoms occur rapidly - within 12 minutes to one hour of consumption.
> Water Hemlock - Cicuta maculata - very poisonous alkaloids & resinoids
> (cicutoxin) found in all parts of plant, primarily in the roots. Piece of
> root the size of a hickory nut(they don't distinguish whether shagbark or
> shellbark!) is sufficient to kill an adult cow.  Young shoots of plant are
> toxic, but toxicity diminished over the course of the growing
> season.  Toxicity seen most commonly in spring, when cattle may pull up
> freshly-sprouting plants by the roots and eat the early-vegetating(and most
> toxic) parts.
> Clinical signs appear within 15 min to one hour after
> consumption.  Excessive salivation, followed by intermittent episodes of
> convulsions.  Opisthotonos with 'running fits', bruxism(grinding of teeth),
> abdominal pain/colic, pupils dilated, nausea, bloat, death can occur in 15
> minutes.  Root pieces in stomach smell like carrot/celery.
> Louis L. "Lucky" Pittman, Jr., DVM
> Veterinary Pathologist/Asst. Prof.
> Murray St. Univ.-Breathitt Veterinary Ctr.
> Hopkinsville, KY
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