HomeMateria Medica by Carroll DunhamHelleborus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Helleborus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Helleborus Niger | Materia Medica by Carrol Dunham

Homeopathy Materia Medica by Dr. Carroll Dunham
Homeopathy Materia Medica by Dr. Carroll Dunham

Dr. Dunham (1828-1877) graduated from Columbia University with Honours in 1847. In 1850 he received M.D. degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York.

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Helleborus Niger


Before passing from this group, I desire to say a few words upon this drug, of which we know but little,—that little being, however, very precious. It was used by the ancients in the treatment of insanity, of epilepsy and of dropsy. It is rarely used now by allopathists.

1. Its action on the vital force is well described by Hahnemann in a foot-note to the proving:

I conclude, from various observations, that stupor, blunting of the general sensibility, a condition in which, with unimpaired vision, the patient, nevertheless, sees imperfectly and does not regard the objects he sees; with the apparatus of hearing intact yet hears nothing distinctly nor comprehends, with his organs of taste in working order, yet finds not the proper taste in anything; is always or often distraught, hardly remembers, if at all, the past or what has but just happened; has no pleasure in anything; slumbers but lightly, without a sound or refreshing sleep; undertakes to work without having power or strength to attend to his work,— these are characteristic primary effects of Hellebore.

2. On the organic substance it acts as a producer of watery accumulations in various parts of the body and general anasarca. The peculiarities of its action have been described. In addition, it produces a severe headache, similar to that of Belladonna, and of Silicea as follows:

Headache in occiput; dull pain; worse on stooping, from the nape of neck to the vertex, aggravated and changed to burning on rising to the erect posture.

The pain is so violent he knows not where or how to rest the head; he lays it every moment in a different position, at last finds it most tolerable when he compels himself to lie quiet and with closed eyes to half doze, and so forget his pain. Heat in the head, stupidity and heaviness, internal heat in the head, with coldness of the hands, etc.

The eyelids tremble and quiver; a sensation as if the eye were pressed shut or out from the eye and yet the vision is normal.

A bitter taste in the throat, increased after eating; nausea from the epigastrium, without ability to vomit, sometimes a feeling of nausea in the stomach, as if from hunger, but food is repulsive; pain in the epigastrium and in the region of the pylorus; every step is painful, increased by talking and by pressure, a sensation as if the epigastrium were drawn inward.

Heaviness in the abdomen; flatulence.

STOOL. The stool is mostly diarrhoeic, being slimy and jelly-like, and yet the evacuation requires some urging. A hard and scanty stool is attended by violent cutting pain in the rectum from below upward, as if it constricted over a cutting substance.

Frequent urgency to pass water and very scanty evacuation; or, as a secondary action, copious and easy discharge.

RESPIRATORY ORGANS. Spasmodic sneezing from tickling in the nose; also a similar cough, with dyspnoea.

BACK. A contracting pain in the loins, and a pain in the dorsal and cervical regions, as if beaten, and a stiffness.

EXTERIOR. Tearing in the medulla of the bones and in the dorsa of the fingers, where it is combined with a kind of paralytic sensation; various drawing and pressing pains.

In the skin we see a general anasarca.

Sticking boring pains in the periosteum and other parts of the body, aggravated by cool air and by physical exertion.

The sleep is restless and full of confused dreams and of fantasies.

The fever is made up chiefly of chill, without thirst, and with painful sensibility of the head to touch and motion; with drawing tearing in the limbs and stitches in the joints.

The heat is chiefly in the head.


Hellebore has been useful in general dropsy when accompanied by the stupor and general paralysis of sensibility, of which Hahnemann’s description has been quoted.

Its most frequent use, however, has been in typhoid and nervous fevers characterized by a similar stupor, and in the second stage of acute meningitis or acute hydrocephalus, when the effusion has already taken place. Its use in these cases was first demonstrated by Dr. Wahle, of Rome.

Dr. Bahr, of Hanover, thus speaks of it: ” In acute meningitis, Helleborus niger is one of our most important remedies when the exudation is regarded as accomplished. The exact time for its administration is when the reaction has become almost nothing, and the phenomena of paralysis have become more or less complete.”

This indication again throws us back to Hahnemann’s very comprehensive and terse characterization of the chief action of Hellebore, which comprises all that can be said of the remedy.

The fact that Hellebore produces anasarca, would suggest its use in post-scarlatinal dropsy; and Altschul speaks very highly of it in such cases, particularly when the general symptoms are those of stupor, etc., as they often are. If, on the contrary, the patient be restless, excited and erethistic, although weak, Arsenic will be better indicated. Apis, also, has been found of great value.

In mania of a melancholy type, with fixed ideas, or in mania daemonica, in which evil spirits are seen at night, Hellebore has been an approved remedy from the earliest ages.

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