Thapsia spp.

Thapsia (Thapsia spp.)

~ Warning: Toxic – this profile is for botanical interest only. This plant is not recommended for self-administered medicinal or culinary use. ~

Other names: Deadly carrots

Includes the species: Thapsia cinerea, Thapsia decussata, Thapsia garganica, Thapsia gymnesica, Thapsia minor, Thapsia nitida, Thapsia platycarpa, Thapsia transtaggana, Thapsia villosa. 

The following information may not be re-posted, copied or published without my permission and appropriate credit given. Please contact me via email (listed on the About page) if you wish to re-publish any of the information on my blog.

Thapsia villosa. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mokraoui

Thapsia villosa. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mokraoui

Family: Apiaceae

Actions: Purgative, emetic, analgesic, antitumorigenic, rubefacient, vesicant


As cited from The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003:

Herbaceous perennial 45–60 cm. STOCK with abundant fibres.

LOWER LEAVES 23–42 cm. Sheath 12–24 mm wide. Petiole glabrous or sometimes hispidulous. Lamina (15)19–30 x 16–26 cm, triangular to rhomboid in outline (2)3–4 pinnatisect, ultimate lobes (1)4–10(20) x (0.5)0.9–2(3) mm, linear-oblong, obtuse to subacute, shortly acuminate. Rachis glabrous or glabrescent at base, villous in the middle, more dense in the upper part, sometimes hispidulous on rachis. Upper (adaxial) surface reticulate, canaliculate, densely hispidulous, green; lower (abaxial) surface reticulate, densely hispidulous on the main nerves and on the revolute margin, glaucous rarely pale green.

UPPER LEAVES 11–25 cm, similar to the lower leaves, frequently uppermost leaves reduced to a broad sheath.

INFLORESCENCE, umbels subhemispherical, bracts absent, rarely very short up to 2 mm; primary rays 9–14(18), 6–11 cm, subequal. Ultimate umbels subhemispherical rarely subglobose, bracteoles absent, secondary rays 29–53.

PETALS oblong to obovate, inflexed, acuminate, deep yellow (yellowish-white when dry).


Thapsia villosa. Photo courtesy Luis Daniel Carbia Cabeza/Flickr Creative Commons

ANTHERS whitish.

FRUITS (15)19–25 x (9)13–15 mm, elliptical to oblong. Seed part 13–18 x (2)2.2–3.5 mm, fusiform, brown. Wings (3)4–6(7) mm wide, straw or silvery coloured, apex acute and falcate sometimes obtuse triangular, overlapping or open apex, wings are greatly variable in form even in the same umbella.

STYLES shorter than wing cleft. T. platycarpa grows in rocky terrain, often on mountainsides, areas of dry grassland, degraded scrubland or forest clearings of Tetraclinis articulata. Flowering from February to May. Fructification from April to June. 30–1600 m.

Part used: Root

Constituents: Sesquiterpene lactones, such as thapsigargin and thapsane, and others.


Thapsia garganica. Image courtesy of F. Bauer/Wikimedia Commons


Thapsia species were traditionally used for pain, however their potently unpleasant side effects make them inadvisable for modern medical use. However, the constituent thapsigarnin has been selected for clinical study as a potential cancer treatment.


Do not use. Eventually, there may be a pharmaceutical developed from thapsia, but that will be prescribed by a physician, not a layperson. Thapsia species can cause serious ill effects, internally and externally (even casual handling of the plant can be harmful.) This includes vomiting, diarrhea and severe blistering of tissues. Do not touch.

Energetic/traditional use:

This genus was named after the Isle of Thapsus, where it was once thought to have originated. It’s been known to grow in the mountains around the site of Ancient Cyrene, and its image was used on some Cyrene coins. In Greece it is known as silphion.

Ancient Algerian communities used thapsia medicinally, although the results were violently unpleasant for the patients.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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