Heracleum. Heracleum lanatum.

Botanical name: 

Synonyms—Masterwort, Cow Parsnip.

The root contains a volatile oil, and a crystallizable substance containing heraclin.


A tincture, and a fluid extract. The dose of the tincture is from five to sixty minims. Fluid extract from two to twenty minims.

Specific Symptomatology—Blood dyscrasia, with general local manifestations. The tongue is heavily coated with a pasty coat or furred. The mucous membranes are of a bluish or leaden color. The membranes of the throat are discolored, with very sluggish circulation, appearing as if they would slough. The breath has a bad odor. There are erosions of the mucous membrane of a whitish character. The pulse is full and sluggish, and there may be a low grade of fever. In some cases the temperature is high, with a slow pulse, the patient is drowsy, and there is general capillary stasis.

The remedy has not received general attention. Felter and Lloyd give very limited action to it, but Dr. Vassar, of Ohio, has made some extended observations, which are worthy of note, and should be confirmed or disproved, by future thorough investigation.

Physiological Action—The doctor says the plant must not be confounded with the wild parsnip, and similar plants. A good preparation of the green root must be obtained to produce good results. The remedy is an irritant to the skin, sometimes causing inflammation. Its poisonous properties are similar to those of the wild parsnip. It acts upon the nervous system as an antispasmodic. It produces, when taken in the mouth, a sensation of tingling, prickling, a benumbing sensation upon the throat, fauces and tongue, similar to that of echinacea, aconite and xanthoxylum. In fact, the doctor compares it in its entire influence, with echinacea. It stimulates tile pulse, and strengthens the capillary circulation. With the tingling and numbness of the throat, is difficult deglutition. Its antispasmodic influence seems to be exercised independent of the alterative influence the agent would exercise over depraved blood, as a cause of spasms.

Therapy—It is given in general spasm in puerperal convulsions, and in epilepsy. While Doctor Vassar has not used it in meningitis. his knowledge of its influence suggests that it would be a valuable remedy in that disease. In the treatment of convulsions, he would give as high as thirty drops of the strong tincture. In the treatment of puerperal convulsions he gives it as high as dram doses, until the patient is under control. He considers it as useful as gelsemium or veratrum. He has used it in several cases. He gave it in one extremely severe case of puerperal fever, where the temperature was 106 degrees, and obtained highly satisfactory results. In this case, he gave it in conjunction with small doses of jaborandi. He has treated several cases of epilepsy with it, two of which were completely cured. The others were benefited. He has given it in tonsillitis, diphtheria, and ulcerated sore mouth. As a vegetable antiseptic, it has many of the properties of echinacea, and some that, echinacea has not. He has given it in cases of blood poison. ing, with good results, but has not had an opportunity to observe fully, concerning its action for the same purposes, that echinacea is given as a corrective of bad blood.

He believes that it exercises an influence upon the capillary circulation of the spinal cord, and upon the capillary circulation in general, similar to that of ergot. He has obtained results from its use in several cases, similar to those previously obtained from ergot.

He has given it in glandular swellings, where there is threatened destruction of tissue, where the parts seem lifeless, or where there were foul and indolent ulcers.

He has given it in nervous dyspepsia, with all the phenomena of that complicated disorder. It is given in small doses, in these cases. It overcomes a tendency to flatulence, preventing flatulent decomposition of the food, and favoring digestion. It is especially demanded when there are offensive gases, discharged after meals. When there is an excess of acidity in the stomach or bowels, from any cause this acidity should be previously neutralized.

The sore mouth or sore throat that calls for this remedy is that accompanied with a cadaverous fetor to the breath, where there is a bad taste in the mouth, the tongue very dirty and pasty in its coating. He intends to investigate it in diphtheria farther, not having had an opportunity to make an extended observation in this disease.

In the treatment of the disorders of women, he finds it applicable in amenorrhea, and especially in dysmenorrhea. In these cases the pains being quite severe, before or immediately the flow starts, the agent seems to act like gelsemium. If other specific indications are present the indicated remedy is prescribed in conjunction with this. The agent will be found useful in certain forms of kidney trouble, and in the uric acid diathesis. It must have further careful investigation as it promises to be an important remedy.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.