cicuta_virosa Cicuta virosa
Cicuta virosa

I live in the crowd of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.
[Samuel Johnson]
Cicuta virosa. Water Hemlock. N.O. Umbelliferae.
CLASSIFICATION Cicuta belongs to the Umbelliferae. This plant family, also called Apiaceae or Carrot family, is one of the best-known families of flowering plants, because of its characteristic inflorescences and fruits and the distinctive chemistry reflected in the odour, flavour and even toxicity of many of its members. “Several umbellifers were known to the ancient Chinese and Mexican Indian civilizations, as well as to the Mycenaeans, Greeks and Romans of the Mediterranean basin. The family was recognized under the name of Narthekodes by Theophrastus and the Greek word Narthex was replaced by Ferula in Latin, the name applied to the dried stalks of umbellifers such as fennel [Foeniculum] or Ferula. In Greek art Dionysus is often shown bearing a Ferula or ferule in his hand. Herbs or condiments such as anise, cumin, coriander, dill and fennel were known to Theophrastus and characterized by their naked seeds and herbaceous stems. The Umbelliferae seems to be the first flowering plant family to be recognized as such by botanists about the end of the 16th century, although only the temperate Old World species were then known. The Umbelliferae contains about 300 genera and 2,500 to 3,000 species. It is found in most parts of the world, although commonest in temperate upland areas and relatively rare in tropical latitudes.”1
HABITAT The genus Cicuta is placed in the tribe Smyrnieae, together with Conium and Smyrnium. The genus is native to swampy areas and marshes, wet meadows and pastures, and along streambanks and low roadsides.
FEATURES Branched, leafy plants up to 2 m tall. The smooth stems are swollen at the base, and hollow except for partitions at the junction of the root and stem. The rootstalk is comprised of hollow, horizontal chambers which contain a yellow, oily liquid. The small, white flowers are borne in umbrella-like clusters.
NAME The derivation of the name Cicuta is uncertain; some think it to come from Gr. kuoo, hollow, in allusion to the hollow stems and the hollow root chambers. The specific name virosa allows of two interpretations: it either comes from L. virus, venom/poison, or from L. virosa, strong-smelling. The common name hemlock applies also to Conium [maculatum] and the North American tree species Tsuga, whose leaves are thought to resemble hemlock leaves. It is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words hem, border, shore, and leác, leek or plant. Others say that the name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word healm, straw, from which the word ‘haulm’ is derived. Nordic names as ‘Scheerling’ [Dutch] and ‘Schierling’ [German] derive from the Old Norse skarn, dung, in allusion to the disagreeable odour of the plants.

3674 Cicuta virosa
Cicuta virosa

TOXICOLOGY Cicuta is considered to be one of the most toxic plants in temperate regions. Very little of it needs to be consumed to cause death. The poisonous properties are due to a resin-like substance, cicutoxin. Humans have been killed after only one or two bites of what they thought were ‘parsnips’ [the yellow, oily liquid that exudes from cut stems and roots smells like parsnips]. The toxicity of above-ground parts is highest in the early spring and decreases through the growing season, losing additional toxin with drying. The roots are toxic at all times, even when dry. The plant is particularly dangerous to cattle. Death may be very rapid and violent. Once the animal has ingested even a small amount of the plant, signs will develop within an hour, and as soon as 10 to 15 minutes. The syndrome is typically very violent, and affects the central nervous system. Initial signs are excessive salivation / frothing at the mouth, dilated pupils, nervousness, and incoordination. Later, muscle tremors and rapid pulse / breathing occur; the animal falls down, throws back the head – bellowing and groaning as if in great pain – and goes into convulsions. Death, from respiratory paralysis and terminal convulsions, is a typical outcome, occurring within 30 minutes of the onset of signs. If a sublethal dose is consumed, and the animal survives for 4 to 6 hours, the animal may recover, but may suffer from temporary or permanent damage to heart and/or skeletal muscle. Ordinarily the convulsions are so violent that nothing can be done for the animal; if, in humans, free vomiting is promptly induced, the victim is likely to recover. Cicutoxin has an acid reaction; it is soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether, and dilute alkalis; it is only slightly soluble in cold water.
HISTORY “The old Roman name of Conium was Cicuta, which prevails in the medieval Latin literature, but was applied about 1541 by Gesner and others to another umbelliferous plant, Cicuta virosa, the Water Hemlock, which does not grow in Greece and southern Europe.”2
USES The American or Spotted Cowbane [Cicuta maculatum], native to eastern North America, is closely analogous to the European species, Cicuta virosa. The root of the American variety is even more virulent than the European one. Some authors have reported that North American Indians, particularly the Cherokees, chewed the root of Cicuta maculata for four days to induce permanent sterility. This is absolutely impossible, for one bite of the root may be fatal. Much more in accordance with the poisonous nature of Cicuta is the following use, documented by Jesuits in 1637: “They kill themselves by eating certain venomous herbs that they know to be poison, which married women much more often use to avenge themselves for the bad treatment of their husbands, leaving them to reproach themselves for their death.”3
WITCHES’ OINTMENT Besides such well-known hallucinogenic nightshades as Belladonna, Hyoscyamus, Datura, and Mandragora, poisonous umbellifers as Conium and Cicuta were also among the ingredients used in medieval flying ointments. A case of poisoning cited by Hughes, shows that not only witches felt inclined to fly. It concerns a woman who had accidentally eaten of cicuta root, which made her “tipsy and insane, so that she attempted to scale heights and to fly.”
PROVINGS •• [1] Hahnemann – 4 provers; method: unknown.
•• [2] Lembke – self-experimentation; method: tincture in doses increasing from 10 drops to 200 drops, over a period of 14 days.
•• [3] Julian – 10 provers [7 males, 3 females], 1964-65; method: ‘the dynamisations used are 3x, 5c, 7c, 9c, 15c, 30c’; manner not stated.
Hahnemann explains why Cicuta has never been used in traditional medicine or in folk medicine, except as an external application to relieve the pains of gout. “The juice of the fresh root [for it has little action when dried] is so powerful that ordinary practitioners did not dare to give it internally in their accustomed big doses, and consequently had to do without it and its curative power altogether”
[1] Heywood, Flowering Plants of the World. [2] Grieve, A Modern Herbal. [3] cited in Erichsen-Brown, Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants.
BRAIN. NERVES. Skin. Gastrointestinal tract. * Left side.
Worse: INJURIES; TO HEAD. Jar. Noise. TOUCH. Cold. Dentition. Suppressed eruptions. Tobacco smoke. Drafts. Worms. Turning the head.
Better: Heat. Passing flatus.
Main symptoms
c Objects seem at one time to come near her and then again to recede from her. [Hahnemann]
[1] Contemptuous.
• “Depreciation and contempt of mankind; he fled from his fellow-creatures, was in the highest degree disgusted with their follies, and his disposition seemed to change into misanthropy; he withdrew into solitude.” [Hahnemann]
[2] Shuns the foolishness of humans; disgusted with their follies.
[3] Anxiety; violently affected by sad stories.
[4] Talking of unpleasant things <. WANT OF TRUST IN PEOPLE. [5] Aversion to company, esp. during menses; avoids the sight of people. [6] Aversion to the presence of strangers. [7] Loss of confidence in humans. Thoughtful about the errors of others. • “Want of trust in people and anthrophoby; he fled from them, remained solitary, and thought seriously about their errors and about himself.” [Hahnemann] • “Many and tiresome thoughts about human conditions.” [Lembke] • “All day thoughts confused and springing unconnectedly from one subject to another, often of a torturing character and taking a dismal view of things; yesterday and today loves to be alone and to be silent, with want of resolution.” [Lembke] [8] Delusion he is not living under ordinary conditions. • “He did not think he was living under the ordinary conditions; everything appeared to him strange and almost frightful; it was as if he woke up out of an acute fever and saw all sorts of figures, and yet he did not feel corporeally ill.” [Hahnemann] [9] Familiar places seem strange. [10] Fear from noise at door; fear to open door. [11] Suspicious; desire for solitude. • “These patients turn inward and withdraw, marginalizing themselves in order to escape a world which they feel is becoming ever crazier. Observation: Bridget brings me her baby, covered with a yellow, crusty eczema. She herself has a disfigured nose. ‘It happened when a horse kicked me; I was twenty years old. The world is too crazy, so I decided to go live in the back country on a farm and become completely self-sufficient. We have our own source of water, our own generator; we produce our own vegetables and our own cheese … ‘ The infant heals rapidly with one dose of Cicuta virosa 15 CH.” [Grandgeorge] c TOO CLOSE. NAIVETY. [1] Thinks he is a child again and acts like one. [2] Impulsive. [3] Jesting, ridiculous or foolish. • “Mania; after unusual sleep, heat of the body; she leapt out of bed, danced, laughed, and did all sorts of foolish things, drank a great deal of wine, jumped about constantly, clapped her hands, and at the same time was very red in the face – all night long.” [Hahnemann] [4] Desire to play with childish toys. [5] Confounds present with past; future with past. [6] Errors of personal identity. [7] Excessive admiration. [Gallavardin] • “He feels like a child of seven or eight years old, objects were very dear and attractive to him, as toys are to a child.” [Hahnemann] * In the past Cic. was, perhaps, too strongly committed. All this seems to indicate that the confidence of Cic. in mankind has been rudely shaken [traumatic experiences, mental and emotional INJURIES], or his demeanour and view on life are totally altered after an injury of the head [mental changes after an injury of the head – compare Nat-s.]. ‘Convulsions from fright’ seems to confirm this. M Blankness / staring. • “Staring [after 15 min.]; she looks fixedly at one and the same place, and cannot help doing so, much as she would like to; at the same time she has not full command of her senses, and must be very strongly excited in order to answer correctly; if she compels herself forcibly, by turning away her head, to cease having her eyes directed on the object, she loses consciousness, and all becomes dark before her eyes.” • “Even though she keeps her look steadily fixed on an object, she sees nothing distinctly; everything runs together, as when one has looked too long on one and the same object, when the sight becomes blurred.” • “If she looks long at the same spot, she grows sleepy, and she feels as if the head were pressed down, though nothing of the sort is noticed, and she then, her eyes being open and staring, is unable to tell the letters of a book.” • “As often as she is spoken to, and thereby forced out of her unconscious staring, and wakened up by shouting to her, so often does she always relapse again into it, and in this state her pulse is only 50 in the minute.” • “If she is allowed to sit still for a considerable time her head sinks down gradually, whilst the eyes continue to stare at the same point, so that as thus the head sinks very low the pupils become almost hidden under the upper eyelids; she then gets an inward shock, which brings her quickly to her senses for a short time; she then falls again into a similar state of unconsciousness, out of which she is from time to time awakened by an internal shivering, which she says is a febrile rigor.” [Hahnemann] G Chilliness; desire for heat. Convulsions / staring may start with a feeling of coldness [in stomach or chest / heart region]. • “She has a feeling of coldness running down her thighs, then coldness in the arms – the coldness seems to come chiefly out of the chest – then comes on a greater inclination to stare fixedly at one point.” [Hahnemann] G Great appetite, which is soon satisfied. Or: Great hunger shortly after a meal. Violent hunger at 11 a.m. and tendency to eat whatever is at hand. [Julian] Desire for unnatural things. • “This patient has strange desires; desires to eat coal and may other strange articles, because he is unable to distinguish between thing edible and things unfit to be eaten; eats coal and raw potatoes.” [Kent] G CONVULSIONS. Especially when caused by a recent or remote TRAUMA [HEAD or SPINE]. G Electric-like SHOCKS from CONCUSSION of brain. G AURA from SOLAR PLEXUS, or fits STARTING with a SHOCK in the STOMACH. G Grand mal. Violent convulsions, frightful distortion of limbs and whole body, frightful facial distortions, eyes jerk and stare, opisthotonos; loss of consciousness; bluish face; foaming at the mouth; grinding of teeth; biting the tongue. Convulsions extend from centre to circumference; the head, face, eyes, and throat are first affected. Convulsions brought on by fear / fright, or if stomach is disordered or chilled. Renewed or < by SLIGHTEST TOUCH, noise or jar. Followed by PROSTRATION or hiccough. Afterwards, memory blank for hours or days. G Convulsions from FRIGHT [Op., Ign., Acon.]. G Swollen sensation in whole body when in bed and frequent starting as if he would fall out of bed. Convulsions or epileptic fit may be preceded by a feeling as if the body is swelling up. G Spasms of teething children or spasms due to worms. G > LYING in bed.
P Headache > passing flatus [Aeth.].
Headache > thinking of pain.
P Impetigo or other pustular eruptions; confluent; thick yellow [loose] crusts; esp. on head and face.
P CRUSTY ECZEMA ON THE HEAD + EPILEPSY is almost for 100% a Cicuta-case. [Morrison]
P Stammering speech.
• On speaking several words he can bring out the first five or six words without hindrance, but with the remainder, in pronouncing the word he gets a small jerk backwards of the head observable by others, and at the same time the arms twitch somewhat, so that he must, as it were, draw back and swallow the syllable about to be spoken, almost like what frequently occurs in hiccough.” [Hahnemann]
P Turns feet inward, or big toes up during spasms. [Boger]
Abusive [1]. Playing antics [1]. Censorious [1]. Aversion to company, during menses, desires to be let alone [1]. Confusion, knows not where he is [1], loses his way in well-known streets [1]. Delusions, he is a child [2], he is dancing in a churchyard [1], body is enormously enlarged [1], he is away from home [1], he was pursued by enemies [1]. Fear, of impending danger [2], of people [3]. Hatred, of mankind [3]. Horrible things, sad stories affect her profoundly [3]. Impulsive [2]. Indifference, after concussion of brain [2]. Kleptomania [1]. Loss of memory after injuries to head [1]. Makes mistakes in time, confounds present with past [2]. Inclination to make noise [1]. Suspicious, with desire for solitude [1].
Objects seem to turn in a circle [2].
Falling, sinking forward of head when looking at anything [2/1]. Motions in head, > thinking of it [1/1]. Shocks, extending to extremities [3].
Photophobia, daylight [2], from snow [1], sunlight [2], during foggy weather [1/1]. Pupils alternately contracted and dilated in the same light [1]. Strabismus [convergent], < mental emotions or fear [2]. Vision Dim, < sunlight [1]. Hemiopia, left half lost [1], when looking at a dark wall [1*]. Objects seem to be moving backward and forward [2]. Ear Noises, reverberating, when swallowing [2/1]. Hearing Impaired, alternating with obscuration of sight [1/1]. Face Discolouration, pale, around mouth [1*]. Stomach Distension, during convulsion [2/1]. Vomiting alternating with convulsions [2/1]. Limbs Convulsions, limbs alternately extended and flexed [2]. Sensation of vibration in soles of feet [1]. Sleep Sleepiness, when looking long at one object [1/1]. Skin Coldness, during convulsions [1]. Generals Convulsions, < cold air [2], on becoming cold [1], with coldness of body [1]. Darkness > [1].
* Repertory additions [Allen].
Desire: [3]: Cabbage. [2]: Beans and peas; charcoal; wine. [1]: Alcohol; beer; brandy; coal; farinaceous; lime; mustard; pungent; raw potatoes; starch.
Worse: [2]: Milk.

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