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Heracleum maximum - Cow Parnsip





Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Cow parsnip was widely employed medicinally by a large number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints, but especially as a poultice on bruises, sores etc[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though perhaps it merits further investigation." [PFAF]

The medicinal parts are the dried roots, the herb collected in the flowering season and dried, the fruit, the fresh herb and the whole fresh flowering plant.[PDR]



General Perennial.[IFBC][E-flora][WildPNW] 3-10ft tall. Robust. Covered with long hairs.[WildPNW] Very Large.[PCBC2004]
Flowers "White, small; numerous, in a large, flat-topped, terminal umbrella-like cluster". [PCBC2004] "Umbels of flower heads often more than 10 in. across, flat."[WildPNW] Involucre bracts 5-10, deciduous, narrow, 5-20 mm long..."[Ganders][E-flora]
Fruits Aromatic, sunflower-seed-like. [PCBC2004] obvate to heart-shaped, narrowed toward base.[Ganders][E-flora]
Leaves Maple-like. Leaf blade divided palmately into 3 parts[WildPNW], each "10-40 cm long and wide, coarsely toothed and palmately lobed".[PCBC2004] Usually hairy.[Ganders][E-flora]
Stem 1-3m. tall, thick, hollow, and strongly ribbed. [HNW]
Root "Stout taproot or cluster of fleshy fibrous roots".[PCBC2004]
Properties "Strong pungent odour when mature." [PCBC2004] There is hot, yellow latex in the stem.[PDR]
Habitat Wet to moist areas.[E-flora] Robust plants of moist habitats, especially near the coast. [PWOBC] Sea level to subalpine elevation.[PCBC2004] Often along streams.[HNW]
Range Common throughout B.C.[E-flora] Widespread in North America.[Hitchcock&cronquist]
Status Native.[E-flora]
Similar Species "giant cow-parsnip (Heracleum.Mantegazzianum, also called giant hogweed), a huge (1.5-4.5 m tall) garden escapee that can cause acute phototoxicity." [PCBC2004] "In southwestern BC, cow parsnip is most easily confused with smaller plants of giant hogweed", "but may be separated from that species by its generally smaller size, leaf shape (it sports 3 distinct leaflets), and fruit shape." [E-flora]


Food Use



Heracleum lanatum - Cow Parsnip
Stalks (Peeled) per 100g fresh weight [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Ash 0.6g, Water 95g, Vitamin A (RE) 7.5, and Thiamine <0.01mg [Turner, Kuhnlein]


Plant (All parts): "Antirheumatic, antispasmodic, carminative, febrifuge, odontalgic and stimulant[21, 94, 155, 172, 257]." [PFAF]

A mild expectorant - This has not been scientifically proven. "A phototoxic effect should be expected after administration." [PDR]

Allergenic, Anthelmintic, Antiseptic, Depurative, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Laxative, Mutagenic, phototoxic, Poison, Spasmogenic, Tonic. [HMH Duke]


Ascorbic Acid - 60mg per 100g of edible portion.(Keely et al.) [Norton KaigHaida]
Furocoumarins (0.5-0.6%): in particular bergaptene, isopimpinellin, pimpinellin, isobergaptene, sphondin [PDR] The furocoumarin methoxsalin is used in the treatment of psoriasis.[PDR]
Psoralen - In the root. It is being investigated for its use in the treatment of psoriasis, leukaemia and AIDS[222]. [PFAF]
Volatile oil: including those containing n-octylacetate [PDR]


"Succeeds in any ordinary garden soil, doing best in moist soils or deep woodland[1, 55, 60]."[PFAF]


Propagate by seed or root division and plant in a sunny location in moist soil. [Schofield] "Seed - sow mid to late spring or early autumn in situ. Division in autumn."[PFAF]

Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed) - "A courser and taller species has escaped from cultivation and beecome established on the Olympic Peninsula."[HNW]


The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 02-11-2016