Kurioses und Sagenhaftes zu Christrosen


The name elleborum, elleborus, or Helleborus in Medieval Latin, has been in use since Titus Maccius Plautus (Roman poet, 254 B.C. to 184 B.C.). The many different common names for Helleborus, such as Christmas Rose, Snow Rose, Lenten Rose or Oracle Flower, indicate that the genus has a long mythological tradition. The names are based either on scientific phenomena (German "Nieswurz" [sneezewort]) or several decades of tradition (Oracle Flower, Christmas Rose).


1. Orientalische schwartze Nießwurtz(Helleborus niger fiore, roseo orientalis) von Elizabeth Blackwell, 1757

2. Helleborus Niger von William Curtis, 1787

3. Abweichung der gemeinen Schwartzen Nießwurtz (Hellebori nigri vulgaris varietas)von Elizabeth Blackwell, 1754 - 1773

4. Helleborus niger, von Georg E. Seufert, 1717

"Nieswurz" in German (“sneezewort")

A very popular German name for hellebore is "Nieswurz", meaning "sneezewort" in English. The name comes from the fact that any part of the Helleborus plant induces sneezing if ground to a fine powder. The mucosal irritation is caused by the protoanemonine that is contained in Helleborus. In earlier times, this phenomenon was used to sneeze off evil spirits and diseases. Helleborus was also used in snuff tobacco blends. Since the leaves and roots are toxic, we explicitly and strongly discourage using hellebore plants or any of their parts for any other purpose than decoration or decorative gardening!

Christmas Rose

The following story explains the origin of the name of Christmas Rose. A poor shepherd travelled to Bethlehem. Because he did not have a present to give to the baby Jesus and, as it was the cold season, he did not find any flowers by the wayside, he wept bitterly. However, as his tears touched the soil, flowers as beautiful as roses sprung from the ground. Overwhelmed with joy, the shepherd took these "Christ-mas Roses" and gave them to the Child of Christ as a present.

Oracle Rose

In earlier times, hellebores were used to forecast the weather for the following year, which is why they were called Oracle Roses. Mainly in the countryside, there was a tradition of putting twelve hellebore flower buds in a glass of water before Christmas, each of them representing one month of the following year. If a bud opened to a flower by Christmas Eve, the weather was predicted to be good for that particular month. If it did not open, poor weather was to be expected.

Use from ancient times to the present day

The Christmas Rose was known even in ancient times and used for medicinal purposes. Hippocrates administered Helleborus as a laxative and diuretic. Helleborus was also considered to be a remedy against mental illness.

In the Middle Ages, the Christmas Rose was used as an ingredient in witches' ointments and considered to be an elixir for eternal youth. Ground to a fine powder and spread on the ground, it was even claimed to make people invisible. Because all parts of the plant are toxic, treating people with Christmas Rose was not without risk.

Today, only the roots of Helleborus niger are used in human medicines to treat cardiovascular problems. The primary ingredient is hellebrin, which is contained in the roots.

(Illustration: Verschiedene Arten der Hahnenfußgewächse, auch Helleborus, aus Phytanthoza-Iconographia, J. W. Weinmann, Regensburg, 1735 - 1745)