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Notes on poisoning: Cicuta maculata


General poisoning notes:

Spotted water-hemlock (Cicuta maculata) is a native perennial herb found in wet soils and marshes across most of Canada and is considered the most violently toxic plant in North America. Humans and all classes of livestock are susceptible to poisoning and death after ingesting plant material. The onset of symptoms is often so sudden and traumatic that treatments are not always successful. The symptoms are similar in all cases of poisoning: salivation, muscular spasms, violent convulsions, coma, and death from asphyxiation. Death can occur within 15 minutes to 2-3 h after a lethal dose (Starrveld and Hope 1976, Panter et al. 1988).

References:

Campbell, E. W. 1966. Plant poisoning Umbelliferae (parsley family). Maine Med. Assoc., 57(2): 40-42.

Haggerty, D. R., Conway, J. A. 1936. Report of poisoning by Cicuta maculata. Water hemlock. N. Y. State J. Med., 36: 1511-1514.

Pammel, L. H. 1928. Cowbane (wild parsnip). N. Am. Vet., 9: 25-26.

Panter, K. E., Keeler, R. F., Baker, D. C. 1988. Toxicoses in livestock from the hemlocks (Conium and Cicuta spp.). J. Anim. Sci., 66: 2407-2413.

Skidmore, L. V. 1933. Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.) poisoning in swine. Vet. J., 89: 76-80.

Smith, R. A., Lewis, D. 1987. Cicuta toxicosis in cattle: case history and simplified analytical method. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 29(3): 240-241.

Starreveld, E., Hope, C. E. 1975. Cicutoxin poisoning (water hemlock). Neurology, 25: 730-734.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name: Cicuta maculata L.

Vernacular name(s): spotted water-hemlock

Scientific family name: Umbelliferae

Vernacular family name: parsley

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Cicuta maculata

References:

Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. , Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.

Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.

Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.

Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Yukon Territory

References:

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

Cicuta maculata:

Images: images.google.com

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

The toxin is concentrated in the rootstock in the spring. Later during the growing season, the roots contain less toxin, and the leaves and stems contain sufficient chemical to cause lethal poisoning (Starreveld and Hope 1975).

Toxic parts:

all parts
roots

References:

Pammel, L. H. 1928. Cowbane (wild parsnip). N. Am. Vet., 9: 25-26.

Skidmore, L. V. 1933. Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.) poisoning in swine. Vet. J., 89: 76-80.

Smith, R. A., Lewis, D. 1987. Cicuta toxicosis in cattle: case history and simplified analytical method. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 29(3): 240-241.

Starreveld, E., Hope, C. E. 1975. Cicutoxin poisoning (water hemlock). Neurology, 25: 730-734.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

The chemical cicutoxin, (trans)heptadeca-8:10:12-triene-4:6-diene- 1:4-diol, is a highly unsaturated higher alcohol. Cicutol is also present. Bohlman (pers. comm.) in Mulligan and Munro (1981) found the following concentrations of these chemicals in Cicuta rootstocks:

Cicuta maculata var. maculata

1.01 mg/g active ingredients

Cicuta douglasii

0.75 mg/g

Cicuta virosa

0.07 mg/g

Cicuta bulbifera

0.01 mg/g

The first two Cicuta spp. are considered the most violently toxic plants in North America. Cicuta virosa is less likely to cause poisoning because of its reduced concentration of toxic compounds. Cicuta bulbifera contains too little toxin to be considered a threat.

Toxic plant chemicals:

cicutol
Image of cicutol

cicutoxin

Chemical diagram(s) are courtesy of Ruth McDiarmid, Biochemistry Technician, Kamloops Range Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kamploops, British Columbia, Canada.

References:

Campbell, E. W. 1966. Plant poisoning Umbelliferae (parsley family). Maine Med. Assoc., 57(2): 40-42.

Skidmore, L. V. 1933. Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.) poisoning in swine. Vet. J., 89: 76-80.

Smith, R. A., Lewis, D. 1987. Cicuta toxicosis in cattle: case history and simplified analytical method. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 29(3): 240-241.

Starreveld, E., Hope, C. E. 1975. Cicutoxin poisoning (water hemlock). Neurology, 25: 730-734.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

General symptoms of poisoning:

convulsions
death
falling down
nervousness
salivation

Notes on poisoning:

Cattle have symptoms of poisoning similar to those of other livestock. The symptoms include salivation, grinding of teeth, muscular spasms, violent convulsions, and death by asphyxiation. Smith and Lewis (1987) developed a rapid technique for identifying the presence of the toxic compounds of water-hemlocks in rumen samples.

References:

Pammel, L. H. 1928. Cowbane (wild parsnip). N. Am. Vet., 9: 25-26.

Panter, K. E., Keeler, R. F., Baker, D. C. 1988. Toxicoses in livestock from the hemlocks (Conium and Cicuta spp.). J. Anim. Sci., 66: 2407-2413.

Smith, R. A., Lewis, D. 1987. Cicuta toxicosis in cattle: case history and simplified analytical method. Vet. Hum. Toxicol., 29(3): 240-241.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

abdominal pains
cardiac arrest
coma
confusion
convulsions
cyanosis
death
dizziness
eyeballs, protruding
eyes, rolling
faintness
heart rate, elevated
inebriation
metabolic acidosis
mouth, frothing of
muscle contractions
muscle spasms
muscle twitching
nausea
neck, rigid
opisthotonos
pupil dilation
pupils, pinpoint
reflex excitability
salivation
teeth grinding
unconsciousness
voiding, involuntary
vomiting

Notes on poisoning:

Symptoms of poisoning by the genus Cicuta include dizziness, salivation, clenching and grinding of teeth, violent convulsions, cyanosis, coma, and death from asphyxiation. In one case, a fisherman took two bites from the roots and then felt dizzy and fell unconscious within 30 min. The patient endured pain and convulsions for some time. Recommended treatment includes administration of oxygen, anesthesia to control gross wild movements, and intravenous sodium bicarbonate to correct metabolic acidosis. At least 83 cases of human poisoning by water-hemlock have been reported since 1900, of which 21 were fatal. The rootstocks are generally distasteful, but ingesting of only one bite causes symptoms in humans (Starrveld and Hope 1976). These notes apply to all water-hemlock species (Cicuta) listed in this information system.

References:

Campbell, E. W. 1966. Plant poisoning Umbelliferae (parsley family). Maine Med. Assoc., 57(2): 40-42.

Haggerty, D. R., Conway, J. A. 1936. Report of poisoning by Cicuta maculata. Water hemlock. N. Y. State J. Med., 36: 1511-1514.

Pammel, L. H. 1928. Cowbane (wild parsnip). N. Am. Vet., 9: 25-26.

Panter, K. E., Keeler, R. F., Baker, D. C. 1988. Toxicoses in livestock from the hemlocks (Conium and Cicuta spp.). J. Anim. Sci., 66: 2407-2413.

Starreveld, E., Hope, C. E. 1975. Cicutoxin poisoning (water hemlock). Neurology, 25: 730-734.

Sheep

General symptoms of poisoning:

breathing, labored
death
recumbency

Notes on poisoning:

Ewes weighing 70 kg were experimentally poisoned with fresh rootstock. The ewe given 100 g showed few symptoms; 200 g of plant material caused extensive symptoms including seizures, recumbency, and labored breathing. Recovery occurred after several days. Gavage with 450 g of the rootstock caused death in 90 min (Panter et al. 1988).

References:

Panter, K. E., Keeler, R. F., Baker, D. C. 1988. Toxicoses in livestock from the hemlocks (Conium and Cicuta spp.). J. Anim. Sci., 66: 2407-2413.

Swine

General symptoms of poisoning:

agonal squeals
brain, congestion of
convulsions
death
lesions, no specific
lungs, congestion of
muscle contractions
paralysis
reflex excitability

References:

Skidmore, L. V. 1933. Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.) poisoning in swine. Vet. J., 89: 76-80.

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Date modified: 2009-09-01