Water Hemlock Cicuta maculata

Water hemlock (Cicuta maculate) and most other species of Cicuta are similar in appearance and grow to heights of 6 feet. These plants are found in wetlands throughout the United States. Cicutoxin is distributed throughout the plant, with the highest concentration in the tuberous roots. One mouthful of root is sufficient to kill an adult (as documented by, among others, Plato). Toxicity has also been documented after dermal contact (7).

Cicutoxin ingestion produces symptoms in 15 to 60 minutes. Muscarinic actions manifest as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, trismus, and hyper-salivation. More central effects manifest as CNS depression, respiratory distress, and possibly tonic-clonic seizures. Death is usually secondary to respiratory arrest. Treatment is mostly supportive, as anticholinergics have not been shown effective in animal models (7).

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