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Introduction to Helleborus

Exploring  Treatment with Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose)


Helleborus niger is being increasingly applied to the treatment of cancer and other Chronic Inflammatory diseases around the World. Most commonly it is used as a complement to mistletoe therapy but can also be used by itself in circumstances where mistletoe is not tolerated. Interest is growing in the application of helleborus for the treatment in disorders of the CNS, neurological trauma, Parkinson’s dz., dementia, post radiation and chemotherapy fatigue,  endometriosis, edema, acute arthrosis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as Kaposi sarcoma and respiratory infections in AIDS patients. Several case studies on anxiety towards the end of life has encouraged use this medicine in palliative care settings as well. There is also interest in the application of helleborus for Lyme disease and CNS symptoms related to autistic spectrum disorders. Helleborus niger (root extract) is a poisonous substance first used by the ancient Greeks and Romans but also in Arabic countries. Paracelsus strongly felt the leaf to be a strong prophylaxis of dementia, especially in “corpulent and phlegmatic” constitutions, as well as post-stroke and excretion processes of the kidney.  Below are some of the uses researched by Samuel Hahnemann and helleborus nig. in the Homeopathic Materia Medica. Homeopathic indications are broad and similar to symptoms mentioned above. Hahnemann is quoted as saying:

"I conclude from various observations that one of the first effects of Black Hellebore is a kind of stupor, a dullness of the sensorium commune, a condition where, with sight unimpaired, nothing is seen very fully, and the patient does not pay any attention to anything, with the hearing perfectly sound, nothing is heard distinctly, with perfectly constituted gustatory organs, everything seems to have lost its taste, where the mind is often or always without ideas, where the past is forgotten or little remembered, where nothing gives one any pleasure, where one's sleep is very light, and a really sound, refreshing sleep is not to be had, and where one desires to work without having the necessary strength or attention required for it." Further….the well know homeopath Dr. Teste groups Hell. n. in the Chamomilla class, with Gratiola and Viola tric., all of which cause "a particular derangement of the cerebral functions and even of the whole nervous system, a painful increase of the sentient action, followed by a considerable depression of the vital forces, and a certain disorder of the mental faculties."

Helleborus niger (Hell.n.) in Anthroposophic Medicine

Helleborus is a member of the crowfoot plant family (ranunculaceae) and is winter blooming with a prominent blossom which takes up to four years to appear.  It prefers limestone soils and likes semi-shaded borders of the forest such as beech grooves. It demonstrates bi-polar growth, erratic metamorphosis with strong leaf differentiation. The crowfoot plants have a particular connection to the forces of the spring. The leaves strongly balance the forces of air and water and the strong animal like blossoms of the helleborus nig. point to strong metabolic actions. The black rhizome contains the most pharmacologically active substances but cytotoxic substances permeate the whole plant. The root contains Beta ecdysone which is cytotoxic, anti-epileptic, anxiolytic and has demonstrated improved cognitive function and reduction of CNS inflammation.  The roots also contain Helleborin and Makranthosid which act as a diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and has both apoptosis effects on several cancer cell lines and increases menstrual flow. The leaf contains Protoanemonin which has antibiotic, antifungal and anti-mitotic effects. The leaf and blossoms are rich in the flavonoid kaemptferol which has antioxidative, antitumoral and apoptotic effects as well. As a whole plant extract we see immunomodulating and anti-rheumatic effects via lymphocyte proliferation and reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Helleborus niger as a Cancer Remedy:

Rudolf Steiner pointed to helleborus next to the importance of mistletoe as a cancer remedy and to the male nature in the use of helleborus niger. At first helleborus, was used for prostate and urogenital cancers including testicular and fallopian tube malignancies. Overtime the use has expanded a great deal and helleborus therapy is used frequently with aggressive, metastatic tumors and brain/lung metastasis and the list of case studies is expanding quickly.  The following is a contrast of the polarities of helleborus and mistletoe was put together by well-known anthroposophic physicians in Europe, Thomas Breitkruetz, Marion Debus, Christof Scnurer, and Dietrich Schlodder.

Oncologist Marion Debus at the Arlesheim Clinic in Dornach Switzerland, notes that in addition to lymphoma and lung cancer patients her breast cancer and melanoma patients seem to benefit greatly from helleborus nig. therapy. She notes patients describe being centered, calmer with a better sense of boundaries in their lives. Pulmonologist, Christof Schnurer notes surprising success with small cell bronchial carcinoma, pleural effusions and also intransigent respiratory tract conditions as well as sarcoidosis. Several physicians in Europe are experimenting with nebulizing potentized Helleborus the D12 strength being most common. Using this therapy for post chemotherapy and radiation therapy fatigue syndromes is showing to be increasingly beneficial in many European clinics. 

While finding the individual rhythm that is right for your patient must always take priority, a common dosing regimen is to use Helleborus and Mistletoe on alternating days. Some clinicians recommend mistletoe in the morning and helleborus in the evening in line with the polar qualities they manifest in the above chart. However, there are no studies to support this practice. 

Helleborus nig. from Helixor is being used intravenously and in nebulized form as well as injection( most common) and oral dosing. Special routes of administration require some experience and training. Helleborus is not approved by the FDA in the United States outside of homeopathic indications. 

Helleborus nig. for Chronic diseases:

A case study from Dr. Georg Soldner, co-leader of the medical section for anthroposophical medicine found helleborus very helpful for childhood encephalopathy. Other anthroposphic doctors have contributed pediatric case reports on brain edema, epilepsy and meningitis. ADD/ADHD and nervous tics have also benefited according to case studies.  There is suggestion that helleborus therapy could be useful in autistic spectrum disorder and Lyme disease especially where there is CNS inflammation and/or swelling present. 

In the realm of psychiatry depression, anxiety as well as traumatic stress with detachment have responded according case reports. Symptoms of indifference, stupor and apathy are common indications for helleborus therapy. Joint diseases such as acute arthrosis, RA and Gout have responded. Myself as author can attest to several case of RA which have shown  benefit. 

Like mistletoe this remedy has a broad range of possible indications do to its strong relationship to the threefold human being. As we study more deeply the nature of this plant we find a strong Moon-related root quality, strong mercurial leaf gesture and a strong and unique blossom with many sun qualities.  In this way the plant has the capacity to harmonize the threefold constitution of the human being generating strong healing effects in the organism when applied properly. Hopefully, we will find a strong healing friend in helleborus niger. and a medicine that is very appropriate for the modern condition of the human being. 

While several indications have been mentioned there are many case studies expanding the possible uses of helleborus niger. The Uriel Foundation is supporting pharmacology studies of this plant and planning to make several new formulations available for more specific indications in the near future. Pharmacist Mark McKibbon, Dr. Steven Johnson and other physicians are contributing to this process. We are hoping several clinicians will work with this special medicine and help future healers to use it more effectively.  Ampules of the proprietary Helixor 

Helleborus niger will be available in 2018.  Next year we will have some of our own rhythmically potentized formulations from local plants as well which will be compounded into specific remedies.  Thank-you for your support of the work of the Anthroposophia Foundation.

The book “The Healing Power of the Christmas Rose” by Johannes Wikens is available through the Anthroposophia Foundation. This is a detailed summary of the history, case studies and possible indications of helleborus niger.  You can order the book by ( ). You can also read more at 

References for this article:

  1. Schlodder D. Neuntdekung einer bedeutenden Heilpfalnze (Rediscovery of an important medicinal plant:the Christmas Rose) (Hellebores niger L.),part 1. Der Merkurstab 2006;59(6):541-5

  2. Schnurer C. Klinische Erfahrungen mit Helleborus niger bei Tumor-und Aidskranken (Clinical experience with Helleborus niger in cancer and Aids patients).Der Merkurstab 1995;48(6):536-58

  3. Wilkens, Johannes-“The Healing Power of the Christmas Rose”, Temple Lodge 2017

  4. Girke, M., Internal Medicine, Salumed-Verlag GmbH, 2016

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