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  • Tsuga canadensis L.
  • Pine family
  • Conium maculatum L.
  • Parsley family
  • Cicuta maculata L

Hemlock Spruce Common Names

herbsCanada-pitch tree
herbsHemlock gum tree
herbsHemlock pitch tree
herbsHemlock tree
herbsEastern hemlock
herbsWeeping spruce
herbsPine tops
herbsTanner's bark
herbsHemlock bark
herbsHemlock leaves

Parts Usually Used

Poison hemlock: Poison---identify to avoid!

Hemlock spruce: inner bark and leaves

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Poison hemlock:

A species of evergreen plant; the volatile oil extracted from dried, unripe fruit of Conium maculatum, poison hemlock or a poison made from the hemlock. A European plant with compound umbels of small, white flowers and finely divided leaves. A branched perennial, 2-6 feet tall. Stems are hollow, grooved; purple-spotted. Leaves are carrot-like, but in overall outline more like an equilateral triangle, and with more divisions; leaves ill-scented when bruised. Leafstalks are hairless. Flowers are white, in umbels; May to August. Similar in appearance to caraway, valerian, Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot, etc. Care should be taken in identifying the hemlock plant;

Water hemlock:

A North American and Asiatic evergreen tree of the pine family, with drooping branches and short needles; the bark is used in tanning.

Hemlock spruce:

A North American evergreen tree growing 50-100 feet high; the bark is a dull brownish-gray on the outside and red underneath and is made up of large, rough scales. The leaves are short and needle-like, and both male and female flowers grow in catkins. The woody seed cones are less than an inch long. Needles are flat; 5/16-9/16 inches long; on short slender stalks. Needles are bright green above, silvery whitish beneath. Cones drooping, to 1 inch long, with few scales; scales rounded. The oleoresin derived from the bark is dark reddish brown, opaque, and has a characteristic turpentine-like fragrance. This is the kind of bark tanners use in making shoe leather.

Where Found

Poison Hemlock is found in waste ground in most of the United States.

Hemlock spruce: found in mountain ravines and woods and in swampy areas. Hills in rocky woods. Nova Scotia to Maryland; Georgia mountains; Alabama to Kentucky, Indiana, eastern Minnesota.

Medicinal Properties

Poison hemlock: whole plant a traditional folk cancer remedy, narcotic, sedative, analgesic, spasmolytic, anti-aphrodisiac.

Hemlock spruce: astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic.


Hemlock spruce: a tea of the inner bark or the young twigs is helpful in kidney and bladder problems and makes a good enema for diarrhea. Use it also to wash external sores and ulcers and as a gargle or mouthwash for mouth, canker sores, gangrene, and throat problems. Put powdered bark in the shoes for tender or sweaty feet or for foot odor.

Hemlock spruce is the common hemlock tree, one of the old home remedies. The leaves can be used, but should not be taken during pregnancy. It can be used in dropsy; it increases the flow of urine. May be used as a douche for leukorrhea; is good for uterine problems, and a remedy for colon trouble and diarrhea when used as an enema.

Native Americans used tea made from leafy twig tips in steam baths for rheumatism, colds, fevers, diarrhea, coughs, stomach troubles, and scurvy. Bark is very astringent.

Formulas or Dosages

Hemlock spruce:

Infusion: for internal use, steep 1 tsp. inner bark or twigs in 1 cup boiling water.

Decoction: for external use, simmer 1 tsp. bark or twigs in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes.

It is better to take smaller doses more often.


Poison hemlock is a deadly poison. Ingestion can be lethal. Contact can cause dermatitis; juice is highly toxic. The young poison hemlock plant closely resembles Osha root.

Symptoms of hemlock poisoning: weakness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, difficult breathing, paralysis, and death.

Treatment for this poisoning: empty stomach by means of a stomach pump or an emetic. Give cathartic. Treat respiratory failure with artificial respiration and oxygen.

Hemlock spruce is not considered poisonous when inner bark and twigs are used but should never be used during pregnancy.

Use only under medical supervision.

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