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Black Hellebore

Black Hellebore

Botanical Description & Habitat

Helleborus Niger


Common names
Christe Herbe
Christmas Rose

Indigenous to the forest of southern and central Europe.

It is a poisonous perennial subshrub which can grow up to 50 cm high. The plant contains a black-brown rhizome, which is collected and dried in autumn.

The white flower is reddish on the outside with a greenish margin, and there are numerous yellow stamens. The seeds are ovate and black.

Medicinal Parts
Rhizome- dried with or without roots
Underground parts- fresh

Historical Properties And Uses

In folk medicine, Black Hellebore is used as a laxative for nausea, worm infestation, to regulate menstruation, as an abortifacient during pregnancy, treatment of head cold, and for acute nephritis.

Method Of Action

Black hellebore is attributed to possess the saponin effect, which irritates the mucous membranes. It also possesses cardioactive glycosides, mainly hellebrin, which result in digitalis like effects.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Avoid using digoxin and other cardiac glycosides as the additive effect may increase toxicity.

Cardiac medication, potassium depleting diuretics and laxatives may increase risk of toxicity.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Due to the saponin effect of the drug, poisoning may result in irritation of the mouth and throat, salivation, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, shortness of breath, asphyxiation, and possible spasm. The dry powder derived from the plant can cause violent sneezing.

Due to the digitalis like effect, cardiac problems may result including cardiac arrhythmias, when large amounts are taken.

Preparation & Administration

Black hellebore is considered dangerous and should probably be avoided for self-treatment.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Brinker, Francis Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.

Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Penguin Books Ltd, 1984

Gruenwald, J, Brendler, T & Jaenicke, C (Eds.): PDR for Herbal Medicines. Medical Economics, NJ. 1998

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996


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