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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Cicuta \Ci*cu"ta\, n. [L., the poison hemlock.] (Bot.) a genus of poisonous umbelliferous plants, of which the water hemlock or cowbane is best known.

Note: The name cicuta is sometimes erroneously applied to Conium maculatum, or officinal hemlock.


n. (context archaic English) hemlock.


Cicuta, commonly known as water hemlock, is a small genus of four species of highly poisonous plants in the family Apiaceae. They are perennial herbaceous plants which grow up to tall, having distinctive small green or white flowers arranged in an umbrella shape ( umbel). Plants in this genus may also be referred to as cowbane or poison parsnip. Cicuta is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, mainly North America and Europe, typically growing in wet meadows, along streambanks and other wet and marshy areas. These plants bear a close resemblance to other members in the family Apiaceae and may be confused with a number of other edible and poisonous plants. The common name hemlock may also be confused with poison hemlock ( Conium maculatum).

Water hemlock is considered one of North America's most toxic plants, being highly poisonous to humans. Three members of the genus contain a toxin named cicutoxin which causes central nervous system stimulatory effects including seizures following ingestion. Medical treatment of poisoning may include the use of activated charcoal to decrease gastrointestinal absorption of the toxic principle along with supportive care including anticonvulsant drugs such as a benzodiazepine. High doses of anticonvulsant medicine are often required to halt seizure activity and further medical care including intubation and mechanical ventilation may be required.

Usage examples of "cicuta".

Was not Socrates who was preferred by Apollo, above all the wise men in the world, by envy and malice of wicked persons impoysoned with the herbe Cicuta, as one that corrupted the youth of the countrey, whom alwaies be kept under by correction?

No bastaba la muerte de un ser humano por el hierro o por la cicuta para herir la imaginación de los hombres hasta el fin de los días.

There mournfull Cypresse grew in greatest store,And trees of bitter Gall, and Heben sad,Dead sleeping Poppy, and blacke Hellebore,Cold Coloquintida, and Tetra mad,Mortall Samnitis, and Cicuta bad,With which th'vniust Atheniens made to dyWise Socrates, who thereof quaffing gladPourd out his life, and last PhilosophyTo the faire Critias his dearest Belamy.

The old Roman name of Conium was Cicuta, which prevails in the mediaeval Latin literature, but was applied about 1541 by Gesner and others to another umbelliferous plant, Cicuta virosa, the Water Hemlock, which does not grow in Greece and southern Europe.