because it kills if eaten,) nicon; the name of several rosaceous flowered plants, and of female sanicle. See Imperatoria nigra.
Helleborus fcetidus. Helleboraster; helleboras-trum; helleborus niger faetidus; elleborine; veratrum nigrum; great bastard and fetid black hellebore; settle, or setterwort; bear's foot; helleborus faetidus Lin. Sp. Pl. 784. This root is small, but surrounded by numerous dark coloured fibres, involved very intricately: the stem rises to about a foot and a half in height, towards the bottom is strong, round, firm, naked, and marked with alternate cicatrices, the vestiges of the former leaves; at the top divides into branches, producing many flowers, garnished with numerous scaly leaves, which stand upon long foot stalks, surrounding the middle of the stem. They are divided, as in the black hellebore, into simple leaves, commonly eight or nine, long, narrow, serrated, lanceolated, and of a dark green colour; and scaly leaves, placed at the ramifications of the flower-stem, smooth, trifid, alternate, often purplish; but those near the flowers are oval and pointed: the flowers are numerous, terminal, pendent, of a roundish shape, and stand upon peduncles, forming an umbel; the petals are five, oval, concave, persistent, of a pale green colour, usually tinged with purple at their margins; the stamina are the length of the petals; the antherae white; the germina three, hairy, and shaped like those of the black hellebore. The plant grows wild in many parts of England, and flowers about February. The smell of the recent plant is extremely fetid; the taste bitter, and remarkably acrid: it operates as a cathartic, sometimes as an emetic; and, in large doses, is highly deleterious. It is used chiefly as a vermifuge; the dried leaves, in powder, are given from five to ten grains. A single green leaf infused like tea forms three doses for a child of seven years old; but the plant bears in summer the leaves of the former year, and one of these of a middle size is meant. The dose is usually repeated for two, and sometimes three, successive mornings; the second has commonly a greater effect than the first, and never fails in young persons to expel round worms by stool. The best form for children is syrup. For this purpose the bruised leaves are first moistened with a little vinegar, then the juice is expressed from the leaves, and made into a syrup with coarse sugar. A tea spoonful is given at bed time, and one or two in the morning, for two or three successive days, increasing or diminishing the dose according to the strength of the patient. In the western counties, a tincture is sometimes made of the leaves with cyder, and said to be an useful preparation. It probably is so, if, as has been asserted, vegetable acids are correctors of this plant. In whatever way, however, it is employed, no medicine acts with more certainty than bear's foot as an anthelmintic. It always evacuates the round worms, but is less effectual in ascari-des and tenia. Dr. Bisset speaks of the plant as also useful in some asthmatic and hypochondriacal disorders. See his Essay on the Medical Constitution of Great Britain. The powder also sprinkled on issues increases their discharge. See Tournefort's Materia Me-dica. Raii Historia Plantarum.
Helleborus albus. Veratrum; common white hellebore. Veratrum album Lin. Sp. Pl. 1479. This plant hath large, oval, ribbed leaves, placed alternately on a round stock, which they embrace by a tubular basis; in their axillae towards the top appear clusters of hexapetalous, 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 more white. It is common on mountainous places in Germany and Switzerland. Our hellebore is probably not the same with that of the ancients, which seems, from the synonyms in Caspar Bauhine's Pinax, to be a species of anemone. Tournefort supposes his helleborus niger orien-talis amplissimo folio caule praealto flore purpurascente to be the hellebore of the ancients, as he found it in the island of Anticyra, famous for the production of this medicine.
When the root of white hellebore is fresh, it hath a disagreeable smell, which is lost in drying; and a nauseous, bitterish, acrid, penetrating, and durable taste. When powdered it is used externally in cuticular erup-tions, and particularly the itch; but if applied to any sore it excites vomiting, and other disagreeable symp-toms: snuffed up the nose it proves a violent sternutatory. If the powder be taken from x. to xv. grains, it operates powerfully upward and downward; but except in maniacal cases it is rarely used. If, on taking this root, it does not operate freely, an emetic will evacuate it; otherwise convulsions will probably follow. Hoffman observes that it affects the fauces, producing strangulation and danger of suffocation, with great anxiety; which the juice of quinces will in his opinion relieve. Gesner infused half an ounce of this root in two ounces of water, two drachms of which produced considerable internal heat about the tongue, the throat, the head, and breast, followed by singultus and vomiting. It produces also violent nervous affections, as vertigo, tremors, syncope, spasms, convulsions, and death. In all these instances the internal coat of the stomach appears to be inflamed. Greeding found it useful in maniacal cases, and it seemed to act on all the different secretory organs, in some cases producing inflammation of the lungs. It has been given also with advantage in epileptic cases.
Tincture of white hellebore is made by digesting eight ounces of powdered white hellebore roots in two pints of proof spirit; and it is the best internal preparation; sometimes used to quicken cathartics, in apoplectic, lethargic, and maniacal cases. In chronical disorders it might be employed to great advantage, if small doses at first were gradually increased . A grain and a half added to a drachm of sneezing powder quickens its operation. It is also used in decoction, and an ointment. Decoction of white hellebore is made by boiling an ounce of the root in two pints of distilled water, till reduced to one: when cold, two ounces of rectified spirit of wine are added. This is used in cutaneous diseases; but chiefly the itch, herpes, and morbus pediculosus, which it frequently cures; and is more cleanly than the ointments.
Gesner says, the root in the form of an oxymel is a powerful expectorant and aperient. It is most indisputably a very powerful medicine, and should be given at first in very small doses, gradually increasing them. It is now omitted in the materia medica of the London college, as highly dangerous.
Helleborus niger; me/ampodium; by Paracelsus, daura ectomon; Christmas flower, black hellebore. It is the helleborus niger Lin. Sp. Pl 783. The Christmas rose. Melampus is said to have observed its purging quality in the goats which fed on it, and introduced it into the materia medica, from whence it was styled Malampodium; but in reality the name is derived from its black colour, and the shape of its leaves. It is a low plant, without any stalk: the leaf is divided quite to the pedicle, into six, seven, or more, smooth round segments, resembling bay leaves, indented from about the middle to the extremity: the flower is large, naked, pentapetalous, of a pale rose colour, with numerous stamina in the middle, -followed by five or six pods full of shining black seeds; the petala continuing and changing greenish: the root consists of numerous fibres, hanging generally from a knotty head, externally of a blackish colour, internally white. It is perennial, grows wild in the mountainous parts of Germany and Switzerland, and flowers in our gardens in January.
The root to the taste is bitter and pungent; if chewed for a few minutes it benumbs the tongue. Dr. Grew observes, that it is first felt on the tip of the tongue, and then on its middle. The fibres are stronger and more active than the tuberous head, and the cortical part of the latter than the internal. It frequently loses its virtue by keeping; and with its smell its powers are lost.
The roots of the poisonous aconites resemble those of black hellebore; but the aconite is lighter coloured than the palest black hellebore roots. It is safe therefore to choose the darkest. In a dose of from fifteen to twenty grains it proves actively purgative.
Long coction destroys its activity; and water extracts, by boiling, and spirit by digestion, nearly all the virtue of the root. Rectified spirit takes up chiefly the irritating resinous part. After proper boiling in water it yields little to spirit; but after repeated digestion in pure spirit, it yields to water a large portion of mucilaginous matter, supposed to be diuretic.
In the present practice the black hellebore root is only used in small doses as an attenuant and deobstru-ent; chiefly in obstructions of the menses, when the habit is plethoric, where chalybeates would be improper. The emmenagogue virtues of this medicine are, however, doubtful; for Dr. Cullen never found them in many trials, nor had he met with any practitioners in Scotland who had better success: not one instance has occurred of the power of hellebore in producing haemorrhage. It promotes urine and perspiration; in hypochondriasis it may be joined with chalybeates; and if the pulse be low, with the fetid gums, and a julep of volatile salt: in dropsies it is said to be useful, if joined wi,h alkaline salts. In nervous cases which do not admit of chalybeates, its advantages are considerable; and when given so as to be powerfully cathartic, it is useful in mania. It is one of the principal ingredients in Bacher's famous tonic pills. See Ascites.
The London college directs a watery extract, (see Extract. Glycyrrhizae,) and a tincture with proof spirit, made in the following manner:
Rad. hellebori nigri in pulverum crassum tritae iv.coccinellarum in pulverem tritarum Э ij. spt. vinosi tenuioris, m. lb ij. digere leni calore per dies octo, et cola. Pharm. London. 1788. The extract is a good and safe preparation when designed as a cathartic; and it contains also the diuretic virtue: the irritating power is in a great degree destroyed by boiling. The dose is from gr. x. to 3 ss.; that of the powder is the same, though the extract is thought milder; but as an alterative, the tincture is usually preferred, of which a tea spoonful twice a day may be considered a common dose. See Neumann's Chemical Works. Tourne-fort's and Lewis's Materia Medica.