The Hogweed family includes biennial plants, rarely perennial plants with strong, spike-shaped roots and grooved, hollow, upright stems. Some representatives of this family can reach up to 6 m in height. The large and split leaves tend to be 20-60cm long and 20-30cm wide. Leaves on the same plant can look different. At the beginning of spring, tripartite leaves appear at the base of the stem, with almost one-piece parts. The younger the leaves, the bigger their split and the leaves of the stem are already divided into two or three parts with large, narrow, toothed parts.

During growth, the Hogweed plant changes its leaves again, only then they do not become more complex, but on the contrary - simpler.

The flowers of Hogweed are small, regular, white, greenish-yellow or pinkish, collected in large, complex compound cymes, where the central ray is significantly larger than the outer ones. The flowers in the central cyme are bisexual, the lateral cymes are usually sterile.

Siberian Hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum) - perennial, densely hairy plant, 0.8-1.5m in height. The large leaves are divided into 3-7 wide oval parts. Upper leaves on long stems, lower ones practically sessile. The flowers are small, greenish yellow, collected in a cyme, the diameter of which is on average 15 cm. 15-30 rays in the central face, 20-50 in the side.

Sosnowski Hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi) - a perennial plant, up to 2 m tall. It has a hairy stem and large, rough leaves. The leaves of Sosnovska Hogweed are divided into 3-7 oval parts. The flowers are small, white, collected in large clusters. The central cone reaches a size of up to 40 cm in diameter.

Mantegaca Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) - brought to Latvia as a flowering plant and rarely found. It is one of the most gigantic representatives of its family. Often it can reach up to 6m in height. Stem erect with glandular hairs. The upper leaves are sessile, with large, inflated sheaths at the base, the lower leaves on long petioles. Both the stem and the lower petioles are often covered with red spots. The flowers are white, collected in large clusters up to 1 m in diameter.

The following Hogweed are collected for medicinal purposes: Sosnovska Hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi), Siberian Hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum) and others, but they are not found in Latvia. The leaves and stems are harvested during flowering of the Hogweed and dried in well-ventilated rooms. The roots are dug in autumn, when the surface part has died. The dug rhizomes are similar to a huge carrot, they are cleaned from the soil, rinsed in running water and cut into pieces. Place the pieces in a single layer to dry in a well-ventilated place. Just don't forget that Sosnovska Hogweed is a dangerous plant and can cause harm.

Medicinal significance

The medicinal value for Hogweed began to be studied only at the beginning of the 21st century and the conducted experiments determined its antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, astringent, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antiseptic and antibacterial properties - extracts of various Hogweed were tested.

A large number of Hogweed species are used in folk medicine. The juice of various Hogweed was used to treat festering wounds and ulcers.

Decoctions of Sosnovska Hogweed are mainly used externally. It treats skin itching, neurodermatitis, eczema, gout and rheumatism. In the form of compresses, it is used to treat scabies and various skin rashes. In rare cases, a diluted decoction is used to rinse the mouth and throat, catarrhal angina, gingivitis and stomatitis.

Siberian Hogweed has gained wide application in folk medicine. It treats hypersthenic neurasthenia, epilepsy, convulsions, hysteria, chymacteric syndrome, chronic enteritis, colitis, chronic gastritis with secretory insufficiency, algodysmenorrhea.

Its decoction is drunk to stimulate the appetite, as a digestive and as an antispasmodic, astringent in diarrhea and dysentery. A decoction of the roots is used for gallstones, kidney diseases, convulsions, epilepsy, bronchial asthma and skin itching.

In case of eczema and neurodermatitis, the plant is used both internally and externally. On the other hand, in case of stomatitis, catarrhal angina and gingivitis, only externally. The infusion of the seeds of the Siberian Hogweed is used against stomach spasms and hysterical attacks, liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice. It is also used in uterine diseases, epilepsy and dyspnoea. There is a belief that by fumigating rooms with Siberian Hogweed seeds, excessive sleepiness disappears and the person becomes more active.

Mixing the juice of the Siberian Hogweed with vegetable oil and rubbing it into the scalp relieves headaches and lethargy.

Not recommended for use

It is not recommended to use Hogweed if there is an individual intolerance to them or a tendency to allergic reactions. Hogweed are not used in case of hemorrhoids and rectal hernias, gastritis with increased acidity. It is not used by children, pregnant and lactating mothers.

Hogweed can only be used after consultation with a specialist and under his supervision, because it is often necessary to monitor the arterial blood pressure!

And such a small detail: a large number of Hogweed are poisonous plants. For example, Sosnovska Hogweed juice contains substances that are photosensitive! Accordingly, when the sap comes into contact with the skin, it will react to sunlight, resulting in severe, chemical burns (usually in the form of huge, watery ulcers) on the skin.

Importance of food

Only Siberian Hogweed can be used in food, under no circumstances Sosnovsky's latvian. There  is no information about Mantegaca Hogweed , whether it is used in food.  In ancient times, it was a normal practice to use Siberian Hogweed in food, it was even dried, pickled and salted for the winter. Practically, you can do everything with it that you can do with cabbage today. With the appearance of cabbage culture, Siberian Hogweed began to use it less often, but only because of the large harvest of cabbage.

The young leaves and stems of Siberian Hogweed are used for food (May-June). Later, the stems remain hard and inedible. The stems and petioles must be peeled.