III: hellebore

Helleborus niger, or the christmas rose: a decorative winter and christmas flower that is also, like mistletoe, used in anthroposophy as a medicinal plant.

Let’s listen to Steiner talk about it:

‘It is quite possible to prove that the therapeutic effect of the mistletoe is really based on the fact just put before you. It will only be necessary to proceed methodically. For, as I have already pointed out the trunk formations of trees are really practically outgrowths of the proper substance of the earth; they are only little mounds containing still the vegetable element and from them the other essential parts of all trees sprout forth. Now, suppose a mistletoe grows on the tree trunk, it sends its roots earthward, although it takes root on the tree. Now consider those plants which share the mad “aristocraticism” of mistletoe without sharing its “bohemianism” of living parasitically. One can expect to make similar experiences when testing such plants. This is bound to be so. Examine and test winter flowering plants with reference to their contrariety, their anti-tendency against the normal tendencies of the human organism, including, of course, the normal tendency to discase. We must expect the plants with flower “out of season” to have effects similar to that of the mistletoe. Extend the experiments to Helleborus niger, the hellebore, and similar effects will be found. It is, however, necessary to take notice of the contrast, already outlined, between the male and female respectively, Helleborus niger will hardly produce any effect — or any visible effect — if administered to women. But on men it will show appreciable influence in the Case of tumours, if it is applied in a higher potency arrived at in the Way already suggested for mistletoe.

‘In choosing plants for therapeutic purposes, it is necessary to bear in mind whether they flower in winter or summer, and whether their inherent effects are more due to their tendency to the earth itself than are those of mistletoe. Mistletoe shuns the earth but hellebore likes the earth and is therefore more in affinity with the male system which is akin to earth itself, whereas the female system of forces, as I have already stated, is more akin to the extra-telluric sphere. These differences must never be underestimated. We must learn to get a certain insight into the processes of nature themselves. This is why I have attempted to characterise with the help of such images as bohemians, aristocrats, madness and so forth: for such concepts are not entirely inadequate in describing the forces in play.’

(An earlier blog post.)