Black Hellebore - Veratrum nigrum Black Hellebore - Veratrum nigrum

Herb: Black Hellebore

Latin name: Veratrum nigrum

Family: Melanthiaceae

Medicinal use of Black Hellebore:

The root is anthelmintic, emetic, errhine, expectorant, laxative and vermifuge. This herb is highly toxic and should not be used internally, or even externally, without expert guidance. The whole plant is analgesic.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

August to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry glades and water meadows, mountain slopes, scrub and rarely in broad-leaved woods in Siberia.

Other uses of Black Hellebore:

The dried and powdered root 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 Black Hellebore:

Dry glades and water meadows, mountain slopes, scrub and rarely in broad-leaved woods in Siberia.

Known hazards of Veratrum nigrum:

All parts of the plant are highly poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.