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Poison Hemlock

Family: Apiaceae (=Umbelliferae)

Species: Conium maculatum

Related: Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa), Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium)

The plant is of relevance to homeopathy, were it is used against an array of symptoms caused by Conium-typical problems. The plant is highly toxic in all parts, containing mainly coniine, and causes death in humans and other mammals through respiratory failure. Recipes keep popping up about tinctures and hemlock extracts being added to ritual wine for consumption. The toxins dissipate from harvested plant parts within a couple of days, but exact degradation rate is hard to predict. The potion that killed Socrates is said to have contained fresh green seeds of Poison Hemlock and Opium. The unripe green seeds have the highest concentration of toxin.

Name: Conium comes from Greek konos= circle or konas = to whirl (causing vertigo) and maculatum = spotted. It is otherwise known also known as Spotted Hemlock, Devil’s Bread (Irish), Beaver Poison, Herb Bennet, Musquash Root, Poison Parsley, Spotted Corobane, Kecksies or Kex, wodendunk, wôde-hwistle, Wutröhre, Wüterich.

Plant description: One of only two known species in the poisonous plant genus Conium, it can be confused with harmless wild herbs such as wild carrot (Daucus carota) and wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), both which are also known as Queen Anne’s lace. However the plant can be distinguished by the dark red to purple spots on the lower stem and leaf axils as well as its pungent smell, which remotely resembles that of parsnip. Together with Water Hemlock and Fool’s Parsley it is one of the most poisonous members in the Apiaceae family and is considered an invasive species and weed in some regions. Biennial, it develops a basal rosette of leaves in the first and grows a smooth hollow stem the second year, which carries large umbels of tiny white flowers from June onwards. Depending on the conditions it may grow over 2 m in height and 1 m wide. The seeds ripen from August to September and in their unripe state contain the highest concentration of toxins. After the seeds have ripened the plant begins to fade and usually dies off in late autumn.

oîda ouk eidōs
– Socrates

History: The fresh seeds were used in combination with Opium to kill convicted prisoners, most famously Socrates. The death caused by it is believed to be painless and go fast (due to which it is said to be favored by suicides).

Magical and other attributions: Sumerians used poison hemlock magically both to bring plagues but also to expell them. In ritual the blade of the knife and baneful tools are consecrated with it and it is part of spells that aim to unerringly inflict a swift death upon an enemy or cause a target to suffer depression leading to suicide. Likewise it may avert such spells. It is further used for astral travel and may help in putting an unwished situation or conflict on ice (Harold Roth). Sacred to underworld and fearsome deities such as Hecate, Hel and Wotan, it became also associated with the legend of the first killer, as the spots on the stem are interpreted as a reference to the Mark of Cain. Due to its deathly reputation and its particular connection with the element water it is also evocative of nymphs and batrachian deities of a darker kind. Likewise toads are said to dwell beneath its roots. In a wider sense it can be associated with transgressive erotica and acts of violation of established laws. In other contexts it represents also a sickened society driving individuals towards self-destruction, depression and suicide. A talisman with Poison Hemlock may be worn in times of pain and grief – particularly in connection with a sad, lost or unreturned love – or being in deep water or having reached an impasse. It may also accompany an individual’s search for genuine knowledge and strengthen an antiauthoritarian or antinomian attitude in its wearer, at the same protecting him/her from foolishness.

  • Deities: Typhon, Hekate, Hel, Sukkubi, the Dark Goddess in Her Strangler-Aspects, Toad-Godesses (Ragana, RUPŪЋĖ ), Wotan/Odin
  • Element, Planet: Water, Saturn
  • Symbols: Noose, Cup
  • Animals: Toad, Serpent
  • Effects: coldness, depression, paralysis, physical and mental restraints and weaknesses, vertigo, loss of speech, breathlessness, death

Healing: In homeopathy hemlock is used to treat symptoms resulting from Conium poisoning, e.g. vertigo, but also to counteract the effects of religious dogma, over-austerity and other forms of repression.

Toxicity: All parts of the plant contain poisonous alcaloids, most of all coniine and gamma-coniceine, with the highest concentration in the unripe green seeds. Depending on dosage these toxins paralyze the muscles and cause death through respiratory failure in humans and other mammals.

Caution: Do not ingest this herb! Always wash hands with soap after handling and wear gloves when touching the plant to protect yourself from accidental poisoning!

Teufelskunst plant seal:

Poison Hemlock
Poison Hemlock

Download PDF (includes sowing & growing instructions)


Wikipedia English, Wikipedia German
Abc Homeopathy – Conium maculatum
The Suicide of Socrates, 399 BC
Poison Hemlock at Alchemy-Works.com
Christian Rätsch, Enzyklopädie der Psychoaktiven Pflanzen

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