The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

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Henbane

Scientific Names

Henbane

  • Hyoscyamus niger L.
  • Solanaceae
  • Nightshade family

Common Names

  • Black henbane
  • Devil’s eye
  • Fetid nightshade
  • Henbell
  • Hog bean
  • Jupiter’s bean
  • Poison tobacco
  • Stinking nightshade

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Parts Usually Used

Seeds, leaves
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Henbane

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Henbane is a biennial plant; the brown, spindle-shaped rootstock produces, in the second year, a dirty-green stem covered with sticky hairs and bearing alternate, sticky oblong-lanceolate, sessile leaves. The funnel-shaped flowers are dull yellow or beige, with purple veins and bases, and grow in one-sided, leafy spikes from July to September. The plant has a fetid odor.
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Where Found

Found growing in dry, sandy soils, waste grounds and gravelyards and around the foundations of neglected houses in northern states of the United States, and in Canada and Europe.
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Medicinal Properties

Anodyne, antispasmodic, calmative, narcotic, analgesic, diuretic, hypnotic
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Biochemical Information

Alkaloids including hyoscyamin and atropine, tannin, choline, traces of essential oil. Contains the narcotics hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which are used as pain killers and to induce sleep. Deadly poison without medical supervision.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Once upon a time, henbane was believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was a main ingredient in love potions. Hamlet’s father was murdered by pouring a distillation of henbane in his ear (perhaps he had complained of earache).

Henbane has figured prominently in literature and folklore throughout the ages as a poisonous narcotic similar to belladonna and datura. Therefore, no formulas are attached.
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Uses

Because of the danger of poisoning, henbane is used primarily for external applications. An oil obtained from the leaves is made into anodyne lotions and used for earache and rheumatism. A decoction or tincture is sometimes taken for nervousness and irritability or to relieve pain.

It stops perspiration, induces sleep, good for hysteria, irritable cough, asthma, gastric ulcer, colitis, and irritable bladder syndrome.

Externally, apply to old ulcers, sores, gout.
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Warning

The whole plant is poisonous. Children have been poisoned by eating the seeds or seed pods. Considered very dangerous when taken internally. Use only under medical supervision.

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Bibliography

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

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