Veratri Albi Rhizoma. White Hellebore Rhizome.
White hellebore rhizome is obtained from Veratrum album, Linn. (N.O. Liliaceae), a herbaceous plant common in the mountains of Central and Southern Europe. It is usually collected in the late summer, freed from the leaves, and dried entire, but sometimes the roots are also cut off, a proceeding which is not to be recommended. Veratrum, U.S.P., may be obtained from Veratrum album, Linn., or Veratrum viride, Ait. The rhizome, which is erect, about 7 centimetres long and 20 millimetres thick, is usually simple, though sometimes branched in the upper part, and crowned with the shrivelled remains of numerous leaves. It is generally enveloped in dull grey or yellowish, long, stout roots, which tend to shrivel longitudinally. The interior of the rhizome is whitish and compact, the transverse section exhibiting a large stele traversed by numerous irregularly disposed bundles. It has a bitter, acrid taste, and the powder is strongly sternutatory.
Constituents.—White hellebore contains about 25 per cent. of resin, starch, and from 0.5 to 1.0 per cent. of alkaloidal matter. the most toxic alkaloid present is protoveratrine, which is a powerful sternutatory; jervine is less active, whilst rubijervine and pseudojervine are inactive; whether protoveratridine occurs pre-formed in the drug is doubtful. Comparative experiments have shown that the roots are in no way inferior in activity to the rhizome. Protoveratrine differs from veratrine in that it does not prolong muscular contraction, and is much more poisonous on sensory terminations; its action closely resembles that of aconitine.
Action and Uses.—White hellebore was formerly used internally in dropsy and other disorders, and externally as a parasiticide in scabies, etc. It is now rarely employed in medicine, but the powdered rhizome is used as an insecticide and to keep moths away from furs and woollen materials.