Helleborus. Helleborus niger.

Botanical name: 

Synonym—Black Hellebore.

Helleborin, helleborein, gum, resin, fat.


Vinum Hellebori Compositum, Compound Wine of Hellebore. Dose, one-half ounce to two ounces.
Specific Medicine Hellebore. Dose, one-tenth to three minims.

Physiological ActionBlack Hellebore, when locally applied, causes irritation of mucous membranes and of the conjunctiva, inducing redness, swelling and increased secretion. A moderate dose taken internally produces no effect, but a considerable quantity causes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain and inflammation of the stomach and bowels. Medicinal doses strengthen the heart and increase the force of the pulse; while toxic doses cause paralysis with rapid pulse and sudden arrest of the heart. The effect on the nervous system is partial paralysis with tremors, followed by violent convulsions.

The agent in its maximum dosage is a drastic hydragogue cathartic in its fresh active form. It is emetic also and emmenagogue. In overdoses it readily produces hyper-catharsis and hyper-emesis. it is a constituent of proprietary pills, but is not widely used in general medicine. In small doses it acts as a stimulant to the liver and to the secretory glands of the gastro-intestinal tract.

Therapy—In hysteria, melancholy, mania and other mental conditions in which the abdominal organs are seriously at fault, it is prescribed with benefit.

The agent is prescribed in dropsical conditions where there is great inactivity on the part of the liver, with torpidity of bowels, with general anasarca or pericarditis or hydrothorax. It is not always the best remedy even in these conditions.

The agent is a local anesthetic, especially to the conjunctiva. Helleborein, a crystalline glucoside, in solution dropped into the eye, will produce anesthesia of the structures through the cornea while the sensibility of the contiguous structures is not impaired. It is not in general use for this purpose.

Where there is burning of the skin, sensitiveness in distinct areas, especially of the nates and thighs or flashes of heat, hellebore is specific. It is given from five to twenty drops in four ounces. of water; a teaspoonful every hour.

Physiological Action—This is a drastic hydragogue cathartic. It is exceedingly irritating and produces a profound revulsive or derivative effect.

Therapy—In apoplexy or in sudden paralysis from cerebral hyperemia, or from rupture of the cerebral vessels, a profound derivative influence may be at once obtained from an active dose of croton oil. In acute cerebritis, or in meningitis, or in violent delirium, or furious mania in adults, it is sometimes beneficial. Its use in accordance with present methods of treatment is very limited, many physicians finding no place for it at all.

Its external use produces active counter-irritation. This pronounced influence was once thought a necessary measure in pneumonitis and pleuritis, and it was freely used in inflammatory rheumatism, and in sciatica and other persistent neuralgias. It was used in cerebral and cerebro-spinal meningitis, and in cases of excitable delirium and acute mania.

Its influence is too irritating and prostrating for dropsical cases which are usually enfeebled from disease.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.