(lat. Helleborus niger L.)
The Christmas rose is poking out its flowers from the cold earth as first plant between Christmas and New Year. The flowering period is between the beginning of December and the end of February. Its flowers are white, rosé or yellowish-green. The rootstock which is dug in December / January, is being used.
The name Helleborus comes from the Greek. It is composed of helein = killing and bora = food. All parts of the plant are very poisonous especially the root and the seed. This is where the familiar sentence of Paracelsus applies: “The dose alone makes a thing poisonous!” Niger = black, like the colour of the root. Hellebore is derived from the root, which has, in powdered form, an irritant effect on the mucous membranes and triggers a strong sneezing.
The plant is mainly used in homoeopathic dosage, in cases of meningitis, confusion, mood disorders, psychoses, muscular weakness up to complete paralysis, low vitality and weakness, functional impairment of the senses, renal inflammation, acute diarrhea, diseases of the heart, the gastro-intestinal tract, the urinary tract, and in case of urgency.
In antiquity, the decoction of the root in wine was used against mental disorders. If one spoke in ancient Rome of a man who was mentally not quite normal, they said “Helleboro opus habet!” (He needs hellebore.)
Paracelsus used the black hellebore (helleborus niger) for the prevention of many age-related complaints. He writes: “The early philosophers and physicians have used it to gain good health and a long, happy healthy life. They began to take this herb from the age of 60 until the end of their life. As a result, they were able to live without illness and reach their end with a healthy body. No ulcer or a tumor could be found in their lungs, liver, spleen, or elsewhere. They also had no toxin causing diseases like open wounds, soreness, intertrigo (lupus erythematosus), cancer, edema in the legs or the like. Also, no poison or waste products have come up in them which could lead to sudden death, stroke, Podagra (gout), Chiragra (gout in the hands), or other diseases in the hips or joints. They also did not have any putrefaction within their body, causing the breath to stink or the worms to grow. If I were to tell everything, I could not describe its virtue on many sheets of paper. This herb contains more virtue and power than what has ever been written by all the scribblers in the high schools and what has ever been described for leading a long life. Vol. III, 494f
For such an old-age health care, the leaves of the black hellebore are taken and dried by the east wind in the shade. Then the dried leaves have to be powdered. Afterwards, the same quantity of pure, fine sugar is added equal to the heaviness of the leaves, Such was the preparation of the first philosophers and doctors.” For this purpose, the leaves “must be gathered at the right time, namely, at the height of Saturno, which is enlightened by a good appearance of Jupiter and Moon”.
These people took half a “Quintlein” (about 2 grams) of this herb daily in the morning up to the age of 70, from the 70th up to the 80th year every other day half a “Quintlein”, and a whole “ Quintlein”, (3.75 grams) every 6th day from the 80th year until the end of the life .” Vol III, 495
Paracelsus mentions that there is a black (= old) and white (= young) hellebore. These roots have the same virtues, but they differ in the fact that the white or young hellebore is to be used only for young people under fifty years, and the black or old hellebore for people over fifty. Nature has made two pharmacies, one for the young and one for the elderly. Paracelsus now says that the young hellebore can be used for all the diseases for which the black can also be taken, with the difference that the sick must be below 50. Vol. III, 601
The ingredients of the plant are: Helleborine (Saponin), Helleborein (Glycosid), Protoanemonin, Aconic Acid and Essential Oils. The greatest concentration of the active ingredients is in the root. The cardiac action of the Helleborin is 25 times stronger than that of the Helleborein. It can be compared with the Strophantin in its effect.
Paracelsus writes: “Four diseases can be healed by the root of the black hellebore, namely, epilepsy, gout, stroke, and dropsy. The root of the black hellebore has such a power that it can heal even a stroke. It does not omit a grain in the whole body. It permeates all limbs, pores, nerves, places, so that there is nothing in the whole body, which has not been touched. In the case of dropsy, one should use the root as a purgative once a week. It discharges the water, expels the water accumulation and overflow.” Vol. III, 608 The herb does not only bring about a high age, but the root removes everything that should not be in the body and could damage the body. “This root contains a special mystery of nature. Its nature is such that it expels anything objectionable in men and women. This is proved by the works.” Vol. III, 498