This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Helleborus Albus Pharm. Lond. Ve-ratrum Pharm. Edinb. Elleborum album Matth. Helleborus albus flore subviridi C. B. Veratrum flore subviridi Tourn. Veratrum album Linn. White Hellebore: a plant with large oval ribbed leaves, crumpled and plated as it were, set alternately on a round firm stalk, and embracing it by a tubulous basis: in their bosoms, towards the top, appear clusters of hexapeta-lous greenish white flowers, followed each by three flat pods containing whitish triangular seeds: the root is short, commonly near an inch thick, with numerous fibres hanging from it, externally of a brownish colour, internally white. It is common in mountainous places in Germany, Switzerland, and some other parts of Europe.
White hellebore root has, when fresh, a disagreeable smell; but as brought into the shops, scarcely any: its taste is nauseous, bit-terifh, acrid, very penetrating and durable. The juice of the fresh root, in taste extremely acrid, is said, when mixed with the blood, to act as a poison. The powder of the dry root is sometimes mixed with external applications for deslroying cutaneous insects: snufled up the nose, in small quantity, it proves a violent sternutatory, and in this intention is sometimes used in lethargic and other disorders.
This root, taken internally, in doses of ten or fifteen grains, operates with great violence both upwards and downwards, and has sometimes brought on convulsions and other terrible symptoms: Hoffman observes, that it peculiarly affects the fauces, producing a stran-gulation and danger of suffocation, with extreme anxiety. It has been chiefly employed, and that but seldom, in some kinds of maniacal cases, as a last resource; in which it is said to have taken place after the strohger of the antimonial preparations had been given without effect. In minute doses, it has been sometimes used for acuating other purgatives and emetics; and sometimes also as an alterative or deob-struent in stubborn chronical distempers. In this last intention it is doubtless a medicine of great power, but its effects have not yet been sufficiently ascertained, to entitle it to a place in general practice.
Infusions of white hellebore root in water,s and the extracts obtained by infpiffating them, in colour yellowish, in taste less acrid than the root itself, appear to operate with less violence. Hermann, who makes the dose of the hellebore in powder from ten grains to fifteen, directs an infusion of a dram; and of the extract he gives about as much as of the root in substance. In the shops, the active parts of the root, extracted by water, are thence transferred into honey: a pound of the root is macerated three days in four pints of water, then boiled a little, the decoction, pressed out and drained, mixed with three pounds of clarified honey, and the mixture boiled down till the water has exhaled and the honey appears of its original consistence. This preparation is used sometimes, but rarely, in glysters: a similar combination of the active matter of the hellebore with vinegar and honey, reduced to the consistence of a syrup, is recommended by Gefner, in an express treatise on this plant, as a safe internal medicine in phlegmatic disorders, particularly those of the bread, and said to promote, without disturbance, all the natural excretions: preparations of this kind, however, have one great inconvenience, that they do not admit so much precision, in regard to the strength, as is requisite in a medicine of so great activity.
A tincture of white hellebore made in proof spirit is likewise milder, both in taste and in operation, than the root in substance: a tincture drawn with two pounds and a half of proof spirit from eight ounces of the root, is kept in the shops, and given sometimes in doses of a few drops as an alterative, and one or two drams and upwards as a cathartic and emetic. On infpiffating this tincture, the remaining extract is found to taste stronger than that made with water, though not quite so pungent as the root itself.
A decoction of an ounce of the powdered root in a quart of water, boiled down to a pint, with the addition of two ounces of rectified spirit to the strained liquor, is now directed by the London college, for external purposes; and also an ointment prepared by mixing an ounce of the powder with four ounces of simple ointment of hogs lard, and half a scruple of essence of lemons.