Herb: White Hellebore

Latin name: Veratrum album

Synonyms: Veratrum lobelianum

Family: Melanthiaceae

Medicinal use of White Hellebore:

The root is analgesic, anthelmintic, cathartic, emetic, errhine, expectorant, hypnotic and sternutatory. The root is very poisonous, with a paralyzing effect on the nervous system, and is scarcely if ever used internally, though the alkaloids it contains are used in the pharmaceutical industry. It is occasionally used externally as a local analgesic, though even this is not without its dangers since it can be absorbed through broken skin. It is also used in veterinary medicine. The root is harvested in early autumn and is dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Moist grassy sub-alpine meadows and open woods.

Other uses of White Hellebore:

The dried and powdered root contains pyrethrums and is used as an insecticide and a parasiticide. It is also effective against caterpillars and mammals so great caution is advised.

Propagation of the herb:

Unless stored in damp sand at around 4C the seed has a short viability. Where possible it is best to sow the seed in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed needs to be stratified but can be very slow to germinate. Germination can be erratic even for seed sown when it was fresh, it usually takes place within 3 - 12 months at 15C but can be much longer. The plant produces just one seedleaf in its first year, this forms an over-wintering bulb. It takes up to 10 years for the plant to reach maturity. Sow the seed thinly so there is no need to thin or transplant them, and grow the seedlings on undisturbed in the pot for their first two years of growth. Apply a liquid feed at intervals through the growing season to ensure the plants do not become nutrient deficient. At the end of the second year plant out the dormant plants into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for a further year or two before planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in March/April or in October. Establish the plants in pots in a shaded frame before planting them out. Division is best carried out in the autumn because the plants come into growth very early in the spring. Root cuttings, 6mm long with a bud, rooted in a sandy soil in a cold frame.

Cultivation of White Hellebore:

Moist grassy sub-alpine meadows and open woods.

Known hazards of Veratrum album:

All parts of the plant are highly poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.