Useful information

The sinister beauty of hellebore

Hellebore (Helleborus) is a rather small genus, numbering, according to various authors, from 10 to 20 species. Many species are found with 4-5 names, such as the Caucasian hellebore. In addition, they are quite successful in producing interspecific hybrids.

The origin of the Latin genus name Helleborus has two versions. According to one of them, it is associated with the name of the river Gelleborus, on the banks of which it was found, on the other - with the Greek verb "Helen" - kill and "Bora" - food, that is, literally - killing food, which indicates its toxicity.

This is the first chemical agent known in the history of warfare used in warfare in 600 BC. NS. ancient Greek troops led by Solon. During the war with the Syrgarians, Solon and his warriors settled on the banks of the Pleistus River, which flowed through the city of Cirrus. To conquer the city, Solon ordered to block the river in order to leave the enemy without water. However, the Syrgarians did not surrender and withstood the siege for a long time. Then Solon ordered to start collecting hellebore roots. A large number of these roots were thrown into the reservoir that formed after Plitus was sealed off. Then, by order of Solon, the poisonous stream was directed along the previous channel. The unsuspecting Syrgarians began to drink this water, and soon the general poisoning began in the city. The besieged could not resist the enemy, and the city surrendered at the mercy of the victor.

At the same time, many ancient authors - Plato, Demosthenes, Aristophanes - mentioned hellebore as a medicine in their writings. This is not surprising: many poisons are drugs in small doses. But it was not always possible to comply with the dose, and then they knew little about the effect of cumulation (accumulation in the body) of drugs. According to one of the versions, Alexander the Great was too intensively "treated" by the hellebore. Although this is only one of the hypotheses of his death.

The Russian name hellebore is due to the fact that it blooms in early spring, even with frost. Academician P.S. Pallas, studying at the end of the 18th century. the flora of Russia, having met this plant from the Buttercup family, was surprised at its endurance and gave it this name. The people also call it a winter house.

Caucasian, blushing, black and green

Perhaps, of all the available ones, only 2 species winter well in us - the Caucasian hellebore and the blushing hellebore.

Caucasian hellebore (Helleborus caucasicus)

Hellebore Caucasian (Helleboruscaucasicus) grows in the Caucasus throughout Georgia, in the south-west of the Krasnodar Territory in oak, beech and fir-spruce forests at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level, on sunny slopes. In the same place, it is barbarously destroyed for bouquets and as a means for losing weight.

It is a perennial rhizome evergreen herb 25-50 cm high. The rhizome is short, horizontal, with numerous long cord-like dark-brown roots. Stems are solitary, low-leafed, simple or branching in the upper part. Basal leaves are solitary, long-petiolate, dissected into 5-11 pointed broadly elliptic lobes with a serrate-toothed margin. Stem leaves (1-2) sessile, smaller and smaller than basal leaves, dissected. Flowers 5-8 cm in diameter, located at the top of the stem. The perianth consists of 5 petal-shaped broadly ovate horizontally spread leaves 2-4 cm long, remaining with fruits, differently colored in individual varieties (from white-green to greenish-brown). The nectars (modified petals) are golden or golden green. Numerous stamens, 3-10 pistils with upper ovaries. The fruit consists of 3-10 non-accrete, in a mature state, leathery leaflets with long noses, which open along the ventral seam. Seeds are oblong, cellular, black, 4-5 mm long.

In European publications, the Caucasian hellebore is mentioned more often under the name Eastern hellebore (Helleborusorientalis, syn. Helleborusponticus, Helleborusguttatus, Helleborus kohii, Helleborusabchasicus, Helleborus officinalis)... From other representatives hellebore abkhaz (Helleborus abchasicus) differs in dark pink color of flowers.

Contains bufadienolides, saponin complex, gelleborin. Included in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia.

Blushing hellebore (Helleborus purpurascens)

Along with the Caucasian hellebore, another species overwinters with us - hellebore reddish, or turning purple - Helleboruspurpurascens... It is found in deciduous forests in Ukraine and Moldova. Its leaves are finger-dissected into 5-7 lobes, each of which is deeply cut into 2-3 second-order lobes. The flowers are dirty purple outside, with dark veins, and inside are greenish-violet-purple.

More known in Western Europe hellebore green (Helleborusviridis) and hellebore black (Helleborusniger). In addition to those listed, there are: smelly hellebore  (Helleborusfoetidus), round-leaved hellebore (Helleboruscyclophyllus), shrub hellebore (Helleborusdumetorum) and etc.

Stinking hellebore (Helleborusfoetidus L.) - grows in Western and Southern Europe. The roots contain a complex of steroidal saponins: Heleborin, Ranuncosid - about 4-9%. In folk medicine of some European countries, it was used as an antihelminthic agent and a laxative for constipation. The dry root is included in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia.

Black hellebore (Helleborus niger)

Hellebore black (HelleborusnigerL. ) is found in southern Europe, primarily in the alpine regions. It is often called the Christrose or snow rose, due to the fact that in European countries it blooms in winter, just around Christmas. In ancient Greece, one of its names is "sneezing root". It was used for confusion and mental illness. According to legend, a shepherd healed the three daughters of King Proitos of Argos from madness. They imagined themselves to be cows, and the shepherd treated them with an infusion of hellebore root in milk.

The most interesting thing is that with its toxicity, the plant was used for many ailments: mental illness, inflammation of the kidneys and urinary tract, acute stomach disorders, heart disease, gastrointestinal tract.

In addition, it is a very popular ornamental plant, which not only decorates the garden, but is also used in all kinds of Christmas compositions.

Hellebore green (HelleborusviridisL.) is found in Europe and North America. Contains bufadienolides (0.5-1%), saponin complex, heleborin, alkaloids (0.1-0.2%) - celliamine, sprintillamin (Sprintillamin)

What hellebore and toad have in common

The rhizomes and roots of plants contain cardiac glycosides (0.2%), of which the main one is desglycogellebrin (Corelborin K), which is split into rhamnose and gellebrigenin during hydrolysis. The bioside gelleborin (corelborin P) in an amount of 0.2% was isolated from the roots of the reddish hellebore, which is split into aglycone, rhamnose and glucose during hydrolysis. Saponins have also been found.

The cardiac glycosides contained in the hellebore belong to the group of glycosides with a six-membered lactone ring. They are called bufadienolides, since they were first isolated from the venom of toads (Bufo - in Latin means a toad). They are close to the glycosides of sea onions. Like other cardiac glycosides, they enhance the contractile properties of the myocardium, in addition, they act on the central and peripheral nervous system, on diuresis.

In medicine, hellebore preparations were tried to be used for cardiovascular insufficiency of 2 and 3 degrees. Corelborin K strengthens the cardiovascular system, lengthens diastole, slows down the heart rate, increases vascular tone and blood flow rate. In the gastrointestinal tract, it is almost not destroyed. In terms of biological activity, Corelborin P is close to Corelborin K, but less toxic, acts faster and accumulates less.

Currently, hellebore is not used in scientific medicine.

It's easier to get poisoned than cured

The hellebore has long been used in folk medicine in many countries, mainly as a heart and diuretic. It was also used by Avicenna. His Canon states that this plant helps in the treatment of paralysis, joint pain, and if brewed with vinegar, it will soothe toothaches and headaches. Recently, it has also been used to combat excess weight. There was also such a fashion for its use. And as a result - the Caucasian hellebore almost exterminated in nature and many patients of cardiology departments. When using a hellebore, the likelihood of poisoning is much higher than being cured. Its cardiac glycosides are highly accumulated in the body.

In addition, in the manufacture of finished dosage forms, the raw materials are standardized according to the content of active substances. It is impossible to do this at home, and cardiac glycosides in the roots, depending on the growing and drying conditions, can be from 0.0 to 0.2%. Accordingly, the effect may be absent (at best) or be very strong. Therefore, instead of recipes, we give symptoms of poisoning: nausea, drooling, tingling in the mouth and larynx, heaviness in the head, dizziness, tinnitus, palpitations, slow pulse, dilated pupils, abdominal pain, diarrhea. The next stage is agitation, convulsions, delirium and death.

First aid is the same as in case of poisoning with heart drugs - washing the stomach with a suspension of activated carbon, or 0.2-0.5% tannin solutions, give saline laxatives, make cleansing enemas. More serious help can only be provided by a doctor in a hospital setting. Therefore, do not delay calling an ambulance.

Hellebore on the site 

Hellebore with seed pods

The plant is very unpretentious, in one place it can grow for many years. For a hellebore, it is better to choose an area in partial shade with loose, fertile and well-permeable soil. Areas where water stagnates in spring or after heavy rain are not suitable. But at the same time, the hellebore prefers to exist in a mode of sufficient moisture and in dry times it must be watered. If the soil on the site is too acidic, then it must first be calcareous.

The easiest way for a plant to reproduce is by dividing the rhizomes. This operation is performed after fruiting - in late August - early September. In the spring, it is better not to do this, since the plants start growing very early and, not having time to root normally, they try to bloom. Delenki take root for a long time, after planting they need to be watered as needed, especially if August and September turned out to be dry. Young hellebores begin to grow actively only after a year.

By seeds, this plant reproduces rather poorly, although self-seeding under certain conditions is quite abundant. In order for the seeds to germinate, a two-stage heat treatment (stratification) is required: 5 months at a temperature of 20 ° C, then 3 months at a temperature of 0 - 2 ° C. The necessary factor in this is light.

The easiest way is to sow fresh seeds in the month of July in a pot dug in a shady place of the plot and they will sprout next spring. This is less troublesome than lengthy stratification. Young plants tolerate transplanting well and, with good care, bloom for 3-4 years of life.