Herb: Cowbane

Latin name: Cicuta virosa

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Cowbane:

The root is analgesic, antispasmodic, emetic, galactofuge and sedative. The whole plant is highly toxic and is not used in herbal medicine. A homeopathic remedy has been made from this plant in the past. It was used in the treatment of epilepsy, meningitis and other ailments affecting the brain.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Ditches, shallow muddy waters and marshes.

Edible parts of Cowbane:

One report says that the boiled leaves have been eaten. This is very unwise, see the notes above on toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, outdoor sowings in situ could be tried in the spring and the autumn.

Cultivation of Cowbane:

Ditches, shallow muddy waters and marshes.

Known hazards of Cicuta virosa:

A very poisonous plant, even a small bite can be lethal. The active ingredient is called cicutoxin, it is a spasmodic with a high toxicity to the central nervous system. It causes death by respiratory paralysis.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.