Wild Parsnip - photosensitive rash treatment?

colorado.ca Posts: 4 ✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Plant ID

Hi Marjory, et al -

A few years back I encountered "Wild Parsnip" at a local Colorado park (dried, during March/winter time) and got a TERRIBLE blistering rash/burn, that got worse with exposure to the sun. I was given prescription (Rx) that treated it well enough, but I'm wondering what natural remedy you would have used and/or what plants I should have looked for in the immediate area, regardless of the season, that would counteract the effects from encountering wild parsnip.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,396 admin

    @colorado.ca First, welcome to TGN! Glad to have you here.

    First are we talking about Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum)? There is also Water Parsnip (Sium suave) in the same family (Apiaceae). Cow Parsnip can cause burns and photosensitivity, however, it is usually its much larger relative, Giant Hogweed, (Heracleum mantegazzianum) that usually causes the type of chemical burns you are describing. You must be particularly sensitive to the chemicals. Or perhaps they are more concentrated in the dried plant. I have handled Cow Parsnip a number of times and it is considered a choice edible at certain times of the year by many First Nations. However, I looked it up and no Giant Hogweed plants have been found in Colorado unless you were in a domestic park that had planted species. Not sure why anyone would deliberately plant this but it obviously has been brought into my province. There is a special team with the Invasive Species Council in BC, that is deployed to eradicate specimens when they are reported. They are in full Haz-Mat gear for the job.

    That's awful that you had such a terrible reaction. I'm afraid I don't know of anything herbal that would help in the beginning to diminish the pain and burning. After it has been seen and treated by medical professionals you could use a healing salve of some kind. With Calendula, Chickweed, Plantain, Self-heal, etc, I would always recommend that this type of burn to be seen by a medical professional because it can go very deep.

    There is a caution on Giant Hogweed and I would think it would apply to Cow Parsnip burns if you are sensitive enough to be affected, to not touch any area that has been exposed as you can spread the chemicals to other areas.

  • colorado.ca
    colorado.ca Posts: 4 ✭✭✭
    edited July 2020

    Thank you for your response & welcome Torey. I think the plant that got me is: Pastinaca sativa (Wild Parsnip). There are many plants that have "parsnip" in the name but I think this is right. It was not cultivated, it was growing wild.

    I am quite sensitive to both plants and insect stings.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,396 admin

    I was not familiar with this plant until now and didn't know there was another plant in the Apiaceae family that would cause such severe burns.. So thank you for the introduction. Hopefully your bad experience with help others here to avoid a similar encounter. I see from the distribution map that it is found in my province but further south. So I will be watching for it if I am travelling in that area. It is an introduced species from Europe so might be an idea to destroy any of these plants we come across. With great care of course.

    My advice remains the same on the burns from this plant. Seek medical attention. Then apply a salve to promote healing and prevent infection.