Botanical Name: Helleborus niger
Species: H. niger
Synonyms: Christe Herbe. Christmas Rose. Melampode.
Common Names: Christmas rose or Black hellebore,
Parts Used: Rhizome, root.
Habitat: Helleborus niger is a native of the mountainous regions of Central and Southern Europe, Greece and Asia Minor, and is cultivated largely in this country as a garden plant. Supplies of the dried rhizome, from which the drug is prepared, have hitherto come principally from Germany.
Helleborus niger is an evergreen perennial flowering plant with dark leathery pedate leaves carried on stems 9–12 in (23–30 cm) tall. The large flat flowers, borne on short stems from midwinter to early spring, are white or occasionally pink.
There are two subspecies: H. niger niger as well as H. niger macranthus, which has larger flowers (up to 3.75 in/9 cm across). In the wild, H. niger niger is generally found in mountainous areas in Switzerland, southern Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and northern Italy. Helleborus niger macranthus is found only in northern Italy and possibly adjoining parts of Slovenia….click & see the pictures
Cultivation & Propagation: All kinds of Hellebore will thrive in ordinary garden soil, but for some kinds prepared soil is preferable, consisting of equal parts of good fibry loam and welldecomposed manure, half fibry peat and half coarse sand. Thorough drainage is necessary, as stagnant moisture is very injurious. It prefers a moist, sheltered situation, with partial shade, such as the margins of shrubberies. If the soil is well trenched and manured, Hellebore will not require replanting for at least seven years, if grown for flowering, but a top dressing of well-decayed manure and a little liquid manure might be given during the growing season, when plants are making their foliage. Propagation is by seeds, or division of roots. Seedlings should be pricked off thickly into a shady border, in a light, rich soil. The second year they should be transplanted to permanent quarters, and will bloom in the third year. For division of roots, the plant is strongest in July, and the clumps to be divided must be well established, with rootstocks large enough to cut. The plants will be good flowering plants in two years, but four years are required to bring them to perfection.
Constituents: Helleborus niger contains two crystalline glucosides, Helleborin and helleborcin, both powerful poisons. Helleborin has a burning, acrid taste and is narcotic, helleborcin has a sweetish taste and is a highly active cardiac poison, similar in its effects to digitalis and a drastic purgative. Other constituents are resin, fat and starch. No tannin is present.
In the early days of medicine, two kinds of hellebore were recognized: black hellebore, which included various species of Helleborus, and white hellebore (now known as Veratrum album or “false hellebore”, which belongs to a different plant family, the Melanthiaceae). “Black hellebore” was used by the ancients to treat paralysis, gout and particularly insanity, among other diseases. “Black hellebore” is also toxic, causing tinnitus, vertigo, stupor, thirst, a feeling of suffocation, swelling of the tongue and throat, emesis and catharsis, bradycardia (slowing of the pulse), and finally collapse and death from cardiac arrest. Research in the 1970s, however, showed that the roots of H. niger do not contain the cardiotoxic compounds helleborin, hellebrin, and helleborein that are responsible for the lethal reputation of “black hellebore”. It seems that earlier studies may have used a commercial preparation containing a mixture of material from other species such as Helleborus viridis, green hellebore
The drug possesses drastic purgative, emmenagogue and anthelmintic properties, but is violently narcotic. It was formerly much used in dropsy and amenorrhoea, and has proved of value in nervous disorders and hysteria. It is used in the form of a tincture, and must be administered with great care.
The active constituents have an action similar to that of those found in foxglove. Toxic when taken in all but the smallest doses, the acrid black hellebore is purgative and cardiotonic, expels worms, and promotes menstrual flow. In the 20th century, the cardiac glycosides in the leaves came into use as a heart stimulant for the elderly. The herb has also been taken to stimulate delayed menstruation. Now considered too strong to be safely used.
Applied locally, the fresh root is violently irritant.
Known Hazards: Helleborus niger contains protoanemonin, or ranunculin, which has an acrid taste and can cause burning of the eyes, mouth and throat, oral ulceration, gastroenteritis and hematemesis.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.