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Product Description

Heracleum from the Greek for a kind of plant like Hercules, thought to be for this species' hardiness and size. Greek legends say Hercules also used this species as a medicine. Pliny the Elder considered this species to be of the highest medical importance.

Sun Exposure               Prairie, Savanna, Woodland
Soil Moisture Wet Mesic, Mesic
Bloom Time

Summer                            June, July     

Bloom Color White
Max Height 8 feet
Wetland Code UPL
Germ Code  M,E
Seeds Per Packet  100
Seeds Per Ounce   2,600


Very leafy plant can grow to 10 feet with a massive stem and leaves up to a foot across. Distinctive odor; some say downright rank. Tiny white flowers on umbels up to 8 inches across. Common throughout the Tallgrass Region.

Widely used by Native Americans as a root tea for colic, cramps, headaches, sore throats, colds, coughs and flu; poultices used for sores, bruises, swelling, rheumatic joints, and boils or other skin eruptions. Early settlers used it as a tea for indigestion, gas, asthma and epilepsy. The root does contain psoralen, a compound being investgated for use in treating psoriasis, leukemia and AIDS. The psoralen in this plant can cause blisters on sensitive skinned individuals. Foliage is poisonous to livestock.

Edible Uses: Root - cooked. Tastes like a swede. Used like potatoes, though it is considered to be poisonous by some writers. The peeled stem can be eaten raw but is best cooked. The unpeeled stem can be used when young, or just the inner tissue of older stems can be used, before the plants flowers. For people not used to the flavour, they are best cooked in two changes of water when they make a tasty celery-like vegetable. Another report says that, despite the strong odour of the leaves and outer skin, the peeled young stems are mild and sweet, resembling celery in flavour. The stems cannot be eaten raw in large quantities because they give a burning sensation in the mouth. The stems are highly nutritious, containing up to 18% protein. Leaves and young shoots - raw or cooked. Cooked as greens or added to salads. No further details. The dried seeds are used as a flavouring for soups, stews and potato salads. The dried base of the plant and ashes from the burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute.

Medicinal Uses: Cow parsnip was widely employed medicinally by a large number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints, but especially as a poultice on bruises, sores etc. It is little used in modern herbalism, though perhaps it merits further investigation. All parts of the plant are antirheumatic, antispasmodic, carminative, febrifuge, odontalgic and stimulant. The leaves are tonic. They have been used in the treatment of colds. A soothing drink made from the leaves is used to treat sore throats. A poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to minor cuts, sore muscles etc. An infusion of the fresh young stems has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. It has also been used as a wash to remove warts. The plant has been used in the treatment of epilepsy. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of indigestion, colds, stomach cramps, rheumatism, sore throats, TB etc. Externally, the root is used as a poultice on sores, bruises, swellings, boils, rheumatic joints, VD scabs etc, whilst a bit of root has been held on an aching tooth to reduce the pain. The root can be crushed, mixed with water and used as an antidandruff hair wash. The root contains psoralen, which is being investigated for its use in the treatment of psoriasis, leukaemia and AIDS. The seed has been used to treat severe headaches.

Other Uses: Whistles, flutes, straws etc can be made from the hollow stems. The leaves are used as a covering for baskets of fruit etc. A yellow dye is obtained from the roots. An infusion of the blossoms, rubbed on the body, repels flies and mosquitoes.

Herbal Uses: Unknown

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