Veratrum album L. - Liliaceae - white hellebore, European hellebore, Weißer Germer
Perennial strong herb, native in Europe, Sibiria, Alaska, 0.50-1.50 high; leaves elliptic to lanceolate, inflorescence a panicle, 30-60cm long, lower flowers unisexual, upper ones mostly male; flowers white, outside greenish or both sides yellowish-green to pale green.
„The plant is toxic to insects and was once used to threat lice in humans and animals… In ancient times, the plant was used as a murder and as an arrow poison. White Hellebore was found to be a remedy for high blood pressure. Because of the very high toxicity of the plant is now used only in homeopathy.“ http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wei%C3%9Fer_Germer
„Protoveratrine is found to produce a striking fall in blood pressure in both essential and renal hypertension after intravenous administration.“
[Clinical studies on Veratrum alkaloids I. The action of protoveratrine and veratridine in hypertension., Meilman, E., Krayer, O., Circulation, 1(2), 1950, 204-213]
The mixture of alkaloids of V.album with hypotensive action, protoveratrin, was found to constist of compounds like protoveratrin A, protoveratrin B, and germitetrine B.
[Hypotensive Alkaloids from Veratrum album Protoveratrine A, Protoveratrine B and Germitetrine B1a., Nash, H. A., Brooker, R.M., Journal of the American Chemical Society, 75(8), 1953, 1942-1948]
„The isolation from commercial Veratrum album of the six hypotensive ester-alkaloids
protoveratrine, germitetrine, veratetrine (neoprotoveratrine), desacetylneoprotoveratrine,
neogermbudine and desacetylprotoveratrine is described.“
[Some hypotensive alkaloids from Veratrum album., Myers, G.S., Glen, W.L., Morozovitch, P., Barber, R., Couture, G.P., Grant, G.A., Journal of the American Chemical Society, 78(8), 1956, 1621-1624]
„Sneezing-powders containing pulverized root of veratrum album (white hellebore) have recently been marketed in the Scandinavian countries. The powder, imported from the Federal Republic of Germany, has caused severe intoxications… This is illustrated by seven case reports from the different Scandinavian Poison Information Centres.“
[Veratrum alkaloids in sneezing-powder a potential danger., Fogh, A., Kulling, P., Wickstrom, E., Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 20(2), 1983, 175-179]
Clinical symptoms of veratrum poisoning are vomiting, a fall in blood pressure and bradycardia.
[Intoxication from Veratrum album., Quatrehomme, G., Bertrand, F., Chauvet, C., Ollier, A., Human & experimental toxicology, 12(2), 1993, 111-115]
„Clinically, various Veratrum extracts were marketed for clinical use as antihypertensive drugs, but because of their narrow therapeutic index were withdrawn from the market… The principal toxins are steroid alkaloids; some have a modified steroid template, whereas others differ in their esterified acid moieties. These alkaloids act by increasing the permeability of the sodium channels of nerve cells, causing them to fire continuously. Increased stimulation, associated with the vagal nerve results in a reflex that causes the triad of responses known as the Bezold-Jarisch reflex: hypotension, bradycardia and apnoea… Following the ingestion of Veratrum alkaloids, expected signs and symptoms include vomiting and abdominal pain, followed by cardiovascular effects such as bradycardia, hypotension and cardiac conduction abnormalities and death. Similar symptoms arise in other mammalian species ingesting these alkaloids; teratogenic effects may occur to the fetuses of animals that have grazed on Veratrum californicum. Treatment consists of supportive care, with an emphasis on haemodynamic stability with fluid replacement, atropine and vasopressors. The onset of symptoms occurs between 30 minutes and 4 hours, and the duration of the illness can range from 1 to 10 days; however, with prompt supportive care, patients typically make a full recovery within 24 hours.“
[Veratrum poisoning., Schep, L.J., Schmierer, D.M., Fountain, J.S., Toxicological reviews, 25(2), 2006, 73-78]
Kohl, F.G., Die officinellen Pflanzen der Pharmacopoea Germanica, t.4 (1891-1895)