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Poisonous Plants in GB

22 23 green stinking hellebore Helleborus viridis and foetidus Family Ranunculaceae. Synonym Bears foot. Green hellebore is a short woodland perennial with serrated leaves divided so that they resemble the fingers of a hand. A welcome sight toward the end of winter, its small green roselike blooms are among the first to grace shady woodland banks. All Hellebores are narcoticirritant poisons, causing vomiting, diarrhoea, severe pain, convulsions and death. However it is unlikely to be confused with anything. Hellebores were used medicinally by the physicians of Ancient Greece and Asia Minor. In Greek mythology, hellebore saved the king of Argos daughters from the madness inflicted by Dionysos, that caused them to run through the streets naked, screaming and crying. Green hellebore was a folk remedy against intestinal worms and infusion of bears foot frequently killed the sick. Dr. Taylor remarks that if persons are not always killed by such worm medicines, it must be a very fortunate circumstance. Worryingly, Burtons Anatomy of Melancholy 1621 advises us that it is a sovereign plant to purge the veins of melancholy, and cheer the heart. Hopefully animals treated with it fared better. Parkinson, in Theatrum botanicum 1641, remarks that a piece of the root being drawn through a hole made in the eare of a beast troubled with cough, or having taken any poisonous thing, cureth it. Gerard also relates that old farriers used to cut a slit in the dewlap, and put in a bit of Bearefoot, and leave it there for daies. The helleborine and helleborin glucosides present affect the heart similarly to digitalis foxglove. The similar and related stinking hellebore Helleborus foetidus lower opposite is very similar in properties and toxicity.
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