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Finocchio
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(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
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Christmas Rose--black Hellebore








This well-known plant, a native of Southern Europe, and belonging
to the Ranunculus order, is grown commonly in our gardens
for the sake of its showy white flowers, conspicuous in winter,
from December to February. The root has been famous since
time immemorial as a remedy for insanity. From its abundant
growth in the Grecian island of Anticyra arose the proverb:
Naviget Anticyram--Take a voyage to Anticyra, as applied
by way of advice to a man who has lost his reason.

When fresh the root is very acrid, and will blister the skin. If dried
and given as powder it will cause vomiting and purging, also
provoking sneezing when smelt, and inducing the monthly flow of
a woman. This root contains a chemical glucoside--helleborin,
which, if given in full doses, stimulates the kidneys to such an
excess that their function becomes temporarily paralyzed. It
therefore happens that a medicinal tincture (H.) made from the
fresh root collected at Christmas, just before the plant would
flower, when [108] taken in small doses, will promptly relieve
dropsy, especially a sudden dropsical swelling of the skin, with
passive venous congestion of the kidneys, as in scrofulous
children.

A former method of administering the root was by sticking a
particularly sweet apple full of its fibres, and roasting this under
hot embers; then the fibres were withdrawn, and the apple was
eaten by the patient.

Taken by mischance in any quantity the root is highly poisonous:
one ounce of a watery decoction has caused death in eight hours,
with vomiting, giddiness, insensibility, and palsy. Passive dropsy
in children after scarlet fever may be effectually cured by small
doses of the tincture, third decimal strength.

The name Hellebore, as applied to the plant, comes from the
Greek Elein--to injure, and Bora--fodder. It is also known as
Melampodium, being thus designated because Melampus, a
physician in the Peloponnesus (B.C. 1530) watched the effect on
his goats when they had eaten the leaves, and cured therewith the
insane daughters of Proetus, King of Argos.

It was famous among the Egyptian and Greek doctors of old as the
most effectual remedy for the diseases of mania, epilepsy,
apoplexy, dropsy, and gout. The tincture is very useful in mental
stupor, with functional impairment of the hearing and sight;
likewise for strumous water on the brain.

The original reputation of this herb was acquired because of its
purgative properties, which enabled it to carry off black bile which
was causing insanity.

No tannin is contained in the root. A few drops of the juice
obtained therefrom, if dropped warm into the ear each night and
morning, will cure singing and noises in the ears. A proper dose of
the powdered root [109] is from five to ten grains. Snuff made
with this powder has cured night blindness, as among the French
prisoners at Norman Cross in 1806. The Gauls used to rub the
points of their hunting spears with Hellebore, believing the game
they killed was thus rendered more tender. Hahnemann said that at
least one third of the cases of insanity occurring in lunatic asylums
may be cured by this and the white Hellebore (an allied plant) in
such small doses as of the tincture twelfth dilution, given in the
patient's drink.

A bastard Hellebore, which is foetidus, or, stinking, and is
known to rustics as Bearsfoot, because of its digitate leaves, grows
frequently near houses in this country, though a doubtful native.
The sepals of its flowers are purple, and the leaves are evergreen;
the petals are green and leaf-like, whilst the nectaries are large and
tubular, often containing small flies. The nectar is reputed to be
poisonous. Again, this plant bears the names Pegroots, Oxbeel,
Oxheal, and Setterwort, because used for settering cattle. A
piece of the root is inserted as a seton (so-called from seta--a
hank of silk) into the dewlap, and this is termed pegging, or,
settering, for the benefit of diseased lungs. The root, says
Gerard, consists of many small black strings, involved or wrapped
one within another very intricately. The smell of the fresh plant is
extremely fetid, and, when taken, it will purge, or provoke
vomiting. The leaves are very useful for expelling worms. Dr.
Woodville says their juice made into a syrup, with coarse sugar, is
almost the only vermifuge he had used against round worms for
three years past. If these leaves be dried in an oven after the bread
is drawne out, and the powder thereof be taken in a figge, or raisin,
or strewed upon a piece of [110] bread spread with honey, and
eaten, it killeth worms in children exceedingly. A decoction made
with one drachm of the green leaves, or about fifteen grains of the
dried leaves in powder, is the usual dose for a child between four
and six years of age; but a larger dose will provoke sickness, or
diarrhoea. The medicine should be repeated on two or three
consecutive mornings; and it will be found that the second dose
acts more powerfully than the first, never failing to expel round
worms by stool, if there be any lodged in the alimentary tube.





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