The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Hemlock

Scientific Names

Hemlock Spruce

  • Hemlock Spruce
    • Tsuga canadensis L.
    • Pine family
  • Poison Hemlock
    • Conium maculatum L.
    • Parsley family
  • Water Hemlock
    • Cicuta maculata L.

Common Names

  • Canada-pitch tree
  • Hemlock gum tree
  • Hemlock pitch tree
  • Hemlock tree
  • Eastern hemlock
  • Weeping spruce
  • Pine tops
  • Tanner’s bark
  • Hemlock bark
  • Hemlock leaves
  • Poison Hemlock
  • Hemlock Spruce
  • Water Hemlock

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    Parts Usually Used

    Poison hemlock: Poison—identify
    to avoid!

    Hemlock spruce: inner bark and leaves
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    Hemlock Spruce

    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    Poison hemlock:

    A species of evergreen plant; the volatile oil extracted from dried, unripe fruit of Conium maculatum, poison hemlock or a poison made from the hemlock. A European plant with compound umbels of small, white flowers and finely divided leaves. A branched perennial, 2-6 feet tall. Stems are hollow, grooved; purple-spotted. Leaves are carrot-like, but in overall outline more like an equilateral triangle, and with more divisions; leaves ill-scented when bruised. Leafstalks are hairless. Flowers are white, in umbels; May to August. Similar in appearance to caraway, valerian, Queen Anne’s lace, wild carrot, etc. Care should be taken in identifying the hemlock plant;

    Water hemlock:

    A North American and Asiatic evergreen tree of the pine family, with drooping branches and short needles; the bark is used in tanning.

    Hemlock spruce:

    A North American evergreen tree growing 50-100 feet high; the bark is a dull brownish-gray on the outside and red underneath and is made up of large, rough scales. The leaves are short and needle-like, and both male and female flowers grow in catkins. The woody seed cones are less than an inch long. Needles are flat; 5/16-9/16 inches long; on short slender stalks. Needles are bright green above, silvery whitish beneath. Cones drooping, to 1 inch long, with few scales; scales rounded. The oleoresin derived from the bark is dark reddish brown, opaque, and has a characteristic turpentine-like fragrance. This is the kind of bark tanners use in making shoe leather.
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    Poison Hemlock

    Where Found

    Poison Hemlock is found in waste ground in most of the United States.

    Hemlock spruce: found in mountain ravines and woods and in swampy areas. Hills in rocky woods. Nova Scotia to Maryland; Georgia mountains; Alabama to Kentucky, Indiana, eastern Minnesota.
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    Water Hemlock

    Medicinal Properties

    Poison hemlock: whole plant a traditional folk cancer remedy, narcotic, sedative, analgesic, spasmolytic, anti-aphrodisiac.

    Hemlock spruce: astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic.
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    Uses

    Hemlock spruce: a tea of the inner bark or the young twigs is helpful in kidney and bladder problems and makes a good enema for diarrhea. Use it also to wash external sores and ulcers and as a gargle or mouthwash for mouth, canker sores, gangrene, and throat problems. Put powdered bark in the shoes for tender or sweaty feet or for foot odor.

    Hemlock spruce is the common hemlock tree, one of the old home remedies. The leaves can be used, but should not be taken during pregnancy. It can be used in dropsy; it increases the flow of urine. May be used as a douche for leukorrhea; is good for uterine problems, and a remedy for colon trouble and diarrhea when used as an enema.

    Native Americans used tea made from leafy twig tips in steam baths for rheumatism, colds, fevers, diarrhea, coughs, stomach troubles, and scurvy. Bark is very astringent.
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    Formulas or Dosages

    Hemlock spruce:

    Infusion: for internal use, steep 1 tsp. inner bark or twigs in 1 cup boiling water.

    Decoction: for external use, simmer 1 tsp. bark or twigs in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes.

    It is better to take smaller doses more often.
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    Warning

    Poison hemlock is a deadly poison. Ingestion can be lethal. Contact can cause dermatitis; juice is highly toxic. The young poison hemlock plant closely resembles Osha root.

    Symptoms of hemlock poisoning: weakness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, difficult breathing, paralysis, and death.

    Treatment for this poisoning: empty stomach by means of a stomach pump or an emetic. Give cathartic. Treat respiratory failure with artificial respiration and oxygen.

    Hemlock spruce is not considered poisonous when inner bark and twigs are used but should never be used during pregnancy.

    Use only under medical supervision.
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    Bibliography

    Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

    Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

    Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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