Herbs & Plants

Veratrum album

Botanical Name: Veratrum album
Family: Melanthiaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales
Genus: Veratrum
Species: V. album

Synonyms: Veratrum lobelianum Bernh.

Common Names: False helleborine, White hellebore, European white hellebore, or White veratrum

Habitat: Veratrum album is native to Europe and parts of western Asia (western Siberia, Turkey, Caucasus). It grows on moist grassy sub-alpine meadows and open woods.

Veratrum album is a tall herbaceous perennial plant with alternate, pleated leaves. The flowers are white, marked with green on the top portion of the stalk. The fruit is a small pod containing winged seeds. The stout, simple stems are 50–175 cm (20–69 in) tall. It is in flower from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). The plants have an estimated lifespan of several centuries and often achieve dominance in wild areas as they are unpalatable to grazing herbivores.


Requires a deep fertile moisture retentive humus-rich soil. Succeeds in full sun if the soil does not dry out but prefers a position in semi-shade. Dislikes dry soils. Grows best in a cool woodland garden or a north facing border. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer. Plants are long-lived and can be left in the same position for years without attention.

Unless stored in damp sand at around 4°c the seed has a short viability. Where possible it is best to sow the seed in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed needs to be stratified but can be very slow to germinate. Germination can be erratic even for seed sown when it was fresh, it usually takes place within 3 – 12 months at 15°c but can be much longer. The plant produces just one seedleaf in its first year, this forms an over-wintering bulb. It takes up to 10 years for the plant to reach maturity. Sow the seed thinly so there is no need to thin or transplant them, and grow the seedlings on undisturbed in the pot for their first two years of growth. Apply a liquid feed at intervals through the growing season to ensure the plants do not become nutrient deficient. At the end of the second year plant out the dormant plants into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for a further year or two before planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in March/April or in October. Establish the plants in pots in a shaded frame before planting them out. Division is best carried out in the autumn because the plants come into growth very early in the spring. Root cuttings, 6mm long with a bud, rooted in a sandy soil in a cold frame.

Medicinal Uses:
The root is analgesic, anthelmintic, cathartic, emetic, errhine, expectorant, hypnotic and sternutatory. The root is very poisonous, with a paralyzing effect on the nervous system, and is scarcely if ever used internally, though the alkaloids it contains are used in the pharmaceutical industry. It is occasionally used externally as a local analgesic, though even this is not without its dangers since it can be absorbed through broken skin. It is also used in veterinary medicine. The root is harvested in early autumn and is dried for later use.


Other Uses:
The dried and powdered root contains pyrethrums and is used as an insecticide and a parasiticide. It is also effective against caterpillars and mammals so great caution is advised. Extracts from dried rhizomes of Veratrum album were briefly used as a pesticide against the Colorado potato beetle.

Known Hazards:All parts of the plant are highly poisonous.

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.


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