Christmas Rose – Helleborus niger

Christmas Rose
Christmas Rose

The Legend of the Christmas Rose
The Legend of the Christmas Rose speaks of a young girl named Madelon who wanted to come worship the Christ Child. Seeing the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by others who were drawn to the humble birthplace, she despaired that she had no gift to bring, for Madelon was poor indeed.

In vain she searched the countryside for a flower that she might bring, but the winter had been cold and harsh – and there were no flowers to be found. Saddened, the girl began to weep. An angel passing over her stopped to provide comfort and smote the ground that was wet from her tears. There did spring a beautiful bush that bloomed of white roses.

“Neither myrrh, nor frankincense, nor gold,” said the angel, “is offering better for the Christ Child than these pure Christmas Roses.” And thus young Madelon went her way and worshipped the Prince of Peace, bearing the gift of her heart and tears.

The plant that is today called the Christmas Rose is the Helleborus niger; also known as Black Hellebore or Christ Rose. It grows in the middle and southern parts of Europe on slopes at high altitude.

According to Pliny, Hellebore was used as a purgative in mania by Malampus (a soothsayer and physician) 1,400 years before Christ. The drug possesses drastic purgative, emmenagogue and anthelmintic properties, but is narcotic.

Due to the presence of Protoanemonin in all parts of the plant Christmas Rose is poisonous. The symptoms of poisoning are slow, irregular pulse, weakness, labored breathing, irregular heartbeat, convulsions, respiratory failure, and nervous system disturbances such as delirium, convulsions, and even death due to respiratory collapse.

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