Heracleum or cow parsnips are high-latitude plants that can produce severe inflammation in humans. They seem like the last thing someone would want to ingest. However:

Flora on Kamchatka: flowers and grasses:

Puchka (Heracleum dulce) is an insidious plant. Its juice has a sweet taste, but leaves blisters and sores on the skin that ache for months! ... Cossacks distilled wine that produced a strange effect: after two or three glasses a person saw wonderful dreams, but in the morning felt so miserable as if he had committed a crime.

Mansfeld's Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops:

A psychoactive drink is made from the plant in Kamchatka.

While the first quote is about something like an accident, the second one seems to describe an ongoing practice. Which culture(s) used this hogweed preparation, and to what ends? Does it still exist today? Is the poisonous part of the plant avoided, and is the preparation truly psychoactive?

(Asked previously on History.SE, -- somewhat resolved there)

1 Answer 1


This book "Reise Um Die Erde Durch Nord-Asien und Die Beiden Oceane ..., Part 1, Volume 3 By Adolph Erman", available on googleBooks, which describes a trip to Russia in 1828-30 quotes yet another text "Vergl. Opisanie semli Kamtschatiki Tsch II Str. 199" which in turn has a more detailed description of the Kamchatskan Cossacks making a preparation of H stems with some kind of honeysuckle berries (lonicera cerulea) and warm water, and eventually distilling a spirit from it with possible hallucinogenic properties.

The text is in German, my own German is a little rusty, and the text cannot be copied to put into google translate.

The other text quoted is probably this A Description of Kamchatka Semi-island. V.2, published 1755:

So I think your sources are quoting much older sources for this.

I found another source (1779), Captain Cook's account of his own travels in Kamchatka also speaks of this plant (page 337), and has another explanation of why it was used for making spirit.

I can't find anything recent to suggest that the practice is still current, but who knows ?

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