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See also: hellébore


Stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus
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From Middle English ellebore, from Old French ellebre, elebore, from Medieval Latin eleborus, via Latin from Ancient Greek ἑλλέβορος (helléboros), possibly from ἄλκη (álkē, fawn) βιβρώσκω (bibrṓskō, to eat). The initial h was restored in English to reflect the Ancient Greek etymology.



hellebore (plural hellebores)

  1. Any of the common garden flowering plants of the genus Helleborus, in family Ranunculaceae, having supposed medicinal properties.
    • 1811, Theodric Romeyn Beck, An Inaugural Dissertation on Insanity[1], page 29:
      Aretæus recommends moderate venæsection to be repeated, if the patient is plethoric, purging with black hellebore, and in some cases emetics; nourishing diet.
    • 1998, Plinio Prioreschi, A History of Medicine, Volume III: Roman Medicine, page 122,
      Then the physician would use the king of remedies, the powerful one, hellebore: [] We suspect that after a sufficient number of administrations of hellebore the patient, if he had not done so before, would declare himself cured.
    • 2006, Janet Lembke, From Grass to Gardens: How to Reap Bounty from a Small Yard[2], page 189:
      It's Virgil who sends me to the hellebores. He mentions them as a component of an ointment to be applied to sheep suffering from skin diseases. The ointment comprises “olive oil lees mixed with silver slag, sulphur, pitch from Mount Ida, wax rich in oil, sea-squill, as well, and strong hellebore and black bitumen.”
  2. A toxic extract of certain false hellebores (Veratrum album or Veratrum viride), formerly used as a pesticide.
    • 1915 July 14, Leland Ossian Howard, Robert Harris Hutchison, House Flies, US Department of Agriculture, Farmers' Bulletin No. 679, page 15,
      Of the numerous substances tried, the one which seems best to fulfill these conditions is powdered hellebore. Some of the powdered hellebore in use is prepared from the roots of a plant which botanists know as Veratrum viride, and which is popularly known as Indian polk or itch weed.
    • 2008, Jeff Gillman, The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why[3], page 110:
      Hellebore is a classic insecticide that has not found much favor in today's pest-control recommendations, though it was certainly effective for its time. In some organic pest-control books information on hellebore can still be found, but by and large its use went out of favor in the 1920s and 1930s.


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