American White Hellebore

(Veratrum viride) Poisonous, of course, like the true hellebores. People like the Blackfoot Indians have been known to use the plant for suicidal purposes (Johnston). The alkaloids in it lower the blood pressure, and so reduce the heart rate (cf WHITE HELLEBORE (Veratrum album). Owing to its emetic qualities it is seldom fatal to man (in accidental circumstances), but overdoses are distressingly energetic (Lloyd). The Cree Indians used the powdered roots for a snuff in the treatment to reduce hernia. The patient would be raised on a platform to a horizontal position. He would take a good pinch of the snuff, and during the violent sneezing that followed someone would be standing ready to push the hernia back with his fist! (Corlett). The Quinault Indians boiled the whole plant, and drank it in very small doses, for rheumatism. Others, who know all about its poisonous character, just tie a leaf round the patient's arm, or wherever, to relieve pain (E Gunther). Because it is so poisonous, it is no surprise that the root was carried as a charm to ward off evil spirits, or to kill sea monsters, by the Salish Indians of Vancouver Island (Turner & Bell).

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