Habitat : The Cow Parsnip is distributed throughout most the continental United States except the Gulf Coast and a few neighboring states. It is especially prevalent in Alaska. It is listed as “Endangered” in Kentucky and “Special Concern” in Tennessee. In Canada, it is found in each province and territory, except Nunavut. It may be weedy or invasive in portions of its range
The Cow Parsnip is a tall herb, reaching to heights of over two meters. It has the characteristic flower umbels of the carrot family (Apiaceae), about 20 cm across; these may be flat-topped, as in the picture at right, or more rounded, and are always white. The leaves are large, up to 40 cm across, divided into lobes. The stems are stout and succulent.
Used mainly in a poultice for boils and other skin problems. The dried powdered roots have been used on the gums to relieve discomfort from loose teeth, and all over the body to treat fever. Mixed with available fats or oils, the dried powdered roots have been rubbed on affected parts to treat rheumatic pains and heart palpitations. Sometimes the roots have been boiled and the liquid rubbed on for these treatments. The root has been taken internally for colic, gas, diarrhea, indigestion, and for asthma.
Cow parsnip is a remedy for the stomach and nervous system. The root, which loses most of its acridity upon drying and should not be used fresh is made into a tea (a teaspoon to a cup) and drunk for nausea that is of a persistent nature but does not progress to vomiting, as well as for acid indigestion or heartburn. In New Mexico, it is often used for the gas and indigestion that accompanies a hiatus hernia, particularly in older women. The seeds are equally effective and if tinctured (fresh or dry), even a few drops on the tongue can settle the most unsettled stomach. Although not as antiseptic as oil of cloves, the seed tincture is a good temporary analgesic when applied to a sore tooth and is far less irritating the gums. The root or seeds act as an antispasmodic to the intestinal tract and will help quiet tenesmus or cramping of the large intestine and the lower tract and will help quiet tenesmus or cramping of the large intestine and the lower section of the small intestine. It can sooth a spastic colon caused by mucous membrane inflammations but is less effective when it is of a distinctly nervous origin. It may help bronchial spasms and will both increase menstrual flow and relax uterine cramps. In New Mexico a strong tea is made from the dry or wilted roots and poured into the bath water of a recently paralyzed person. This is repeated once a day until some nerve function has returned or the therapy has brought to apparent relief. Also, in northern New Mexico, a poultice or strong tea is applied to the face for tic douloureux particularly where there is some motor paralysis, and for aigre: a temporary paralysis of the face, neck, or arms that is attributed to bad night air or drafts. The powdered root or seeds can be used as a poultice for sore muscles and joints, having a mild rubifacient effect.
The juices of all parts contain a phototoxin that can act on contact with skin and exposure to ultraviolet light, causing anything from a mild rash to a blistering, severe dermatitis, depending on the sensitivity of the individual.
Various Native American peoples had many different uses for this plant; all parts of it were used by one nation or another. Perhaps the most common use was to make poultices to be applied to bruises or sores. In addition, the young stalks and leaf stems — before the plant reaches maturity — were widely used for food with the outer skin peeled off giving a sweetish flavor. The dried stems were also used as drinking straws for the old or infirm, and to make flutes for children. A yellow dye can be made from the roots, and an infusion of the flowers can be rubbed on the body to repel flies and mosquitoes
Known Hazards: or infirm, and to make flutes for children. A yellow dye can be made from the roots, and an infusion of the flowers can be rubbed on the body to repel flies and mosquitoes
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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