Henbane: Wikis

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Hyoscyamus niger article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Hyoscyamus
Species: H. niger
Binomial name
Hyoscyamus niger

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger[1]), also known as stinking nightshade, is a plant of the family Solanaceae[1] that originated in Eurasia,[1] though it is now globally distributed.


Toxicity and historical usage

It was historically used in combination with other plants, such as mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura as an anaesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic brews."[1][2][3] These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and a sensation of flight.[4] Its usage was originally in continental Europe, Asia and the Arabic world[5], though it did spread to England sometime during the Middle Ages. The use of Henbane by the ancient Greeks was documented by Pliny. The plant, recorded as Herba Apollinaris, was used to yield oracles by the priestesses of Apollo.[1]

Henbane can be toxic, even fatal, to animals in low doses. Its name dates at least to 1265. The origins of the word are unclear but "hen" probably originally meant death rather than referring to chickens.[6]. Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids have been found in the foliage and seeds of the plant.[1] Common effects of henbane ingestion in humans include hallucinations,[1] dilated pupils, restlessness, and flushed skin. Less common symptoms such as tachycardia, convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, hyperpyrexia and ataxia have all been noted.

Not all animals are susceptible; the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth eat henbane.

It was sometimes one of the ingredients in grut, traditionally used in beers as a flavouring, until replaced by hops in the 11th to 16th centuries (for example, the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 outlawed ingredients other than barley, hops, and water).[7]

Henbane in flower

In 1910, an American homeopathic doctor living in London, Hawley Harvey Crippen, allegedly used scopolamine, an alkaloid extracted from henbane, to poison his wife.[8]

Henbane is thought to have been the "hebenon" poured into the ear of Hamlet's father[2][9] (although other candidates for hebenon exist[10]).


In 2008 celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson recommended Henbane as a "tasty addition to salads" in the August 2008 issue of Healthy and Organic Living magazine. He subsequently said that he had made an error, confusing the herb with Fat Hen, a member of the spinach family. He apologised, and the magazine sent subscribers an urgent message stating that Henbane "is a very toxic plant and should never be eaten."[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Roberts 1998, p. 31.
  2. ^ a b Anthony John Carter MB FFARCS (March 2003). "Myths and mandrakes" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 96 (3): 144–147. doi:10.1258/jrsm.96.3.144. PMID 12612119. PMC 539425. http://www.jrsm.org/cgi/reprint/96/3/144.pdf.  
  3. ^ A. J. Carter (1996-12-21). "Narcosis and nightshade". British Medical Journal 313 (7072): 1630–1632. PMID 8991015. PMC 2359130. http://www.bmj.com/archive/7072ad4.htm.  
  4. ^ Schultes & Smith 1976, p. 22
  5. ^ Joseph Perez, Janet Lloyd, The Spanish Inquisition, Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN 0300119828, ISBN 9780300119824, p229 footnote 10]
  6. ^ Anatoly Liberman, J. Lawrence Mitchell (2008). An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 108–110. ISBN 9780816652723. http://books.google.com/books?id=_m7k1Oi-cakC&pg=PA108&lpg=PA109&dq=henbane+An+Analytic+Dictionary+of+English&sig=ACfU3U3ClrwJijXR1g9Ort5gotA06qlZ0g.  
  7. ^ Dan Rabin, Carl Forget (1998). The Dictionary of Beer and Brewing. Taylor & Francis. xii. ISBN 9781579580780. http://books.google.com/books?id=XRyxWu8rRnQC&pg=PR12&lpg=PR12&dq=grut+henbane&source=web&ots=VYmiB5FqRw&sig=e_OikTnvaSyfhlwoTJwvDaJrWPs&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result.  
  8. ^ "The Crippen Case – Discovery of Poison", The Times, Wednesday, September 7th, 1910, p3
  9. ^ "Hebenon". Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828). http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?action=search&word=hebenon&resource=Webster%27s&quicksearch=on.  
  10. ^ Anatoly Liberman, J. Lawrence Mitchell (2008). An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 9780816652723. http://books.google.com/books?id=_m7k1Oi-cakC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=hebenon+henbane&source=web&ots=eu8dtBErXl&sig=KPYDD9SUuodWRIp6C0oJo3ooOF4&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result.  
  11. ^ "TV chef Worrall Thompson recommends deadly weed as salad ingredient". The Guardian. August 4, 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/04/foodanddrink.foodsafety?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront. Retrieved 2008-08-04.  


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HENBANE (Fr. jusquiaume, from the Gr. '06Kbauos, or hog's-bean; Ital. giusquiamo; Ger. Schwarzes Bilsenkraut, Hiihnertod, Saubohne and Zigeuner-Korn or "gipsies' corn"), the common name of the plant Hyoscyamus niger, a member of the natural order Solanaceae, indigenous to Britain, found wild in waste places, on rubbish about villages and old castles, and cultivated for medicinal use in various counties in the south and east of England. It occurs also in central and southern Europe and in western Asia extending to India and Siberia, and has long been naturalized in the United States. There are two forms of the plant, an annual and a biennial, which spring indifferently from the same crop of seed - the one growing on during summer to a height of from to 2 ft., and flowering and perfecting seed; the other producing the first season only a tuft of radical leaves, which disappear in winter, leaving under ground a thick fleshy root, from the crown of which arises in spring a branched flowering stem, usually much taller and more vigorous than the flowering stems of the annual plants. The biennial form is that which is considered officinal. The radical leaves of this biennial plant spread out flat on all sides from the crown of the root; they are ovate-oblong, acute, stalked, and more or less incisely-toothed, of a greyish-green colour, and covered with viscid hairs; these leaves perish at the approach of winter. The flowering stem pushes up from the root-crown in spring, ultimately reaching from 3 to 4 ft. in height, and as it grows becoming branched, and furnished with alternate sessile leaves, which are stem-clasping, oblong, unequally-lobed, clothed with glandular clammy hairs, and of a dull grey-green, the whole plant having a powerful nauseous odour. The flowers are shortlystalked, the lower ones growing in the fork of the branches, the upper ones sessile in one-sided leafy spikes which are rolled back at the top before flowering, the leaves becoming smaller upwards and taking the place of bracts. The flowers have an urn-shaped calyx which persists around the fruit and is strongly veined, with five stiff, broad, almost prickly lobes; these, when the soft matter is removed by maceration, form very elegant specimens when associated with leaves prepared in a similar way. The corollas are obliquely funnel-shaped, of a dirty yellow or buff, marked with a close reticulation of purple veins. The capsule opens transversely by a convex lid and contains numerous seeds. Both the leaves and the seeds are employed in pharmacy. The Mahommedan doctors of India are accustomed to prescribe the seeds. Henbane yields a poisonous alkaloid, hyoscyamine, which is stated to have properties almost identical with those of atropine, from which it differs in being more soluble in water. It is usually obtained in an amorphous, scarcely ever in a crystalline state. Its properties have been investigated in Germany by T. Husemann, Schroff, Han, &c. Hohn finds its chemical composition expressed by C18H28N208. (Compare Hellmann, Beitrcige zur Kenntnis der physiolog. Wirkung des Hyoscyamins, &c., Jena, 1874.) In small and repeated doses henbane has been found to have a tranquillizing effect upon persons affected by severe nervous irritability. In poisonous doses it causes loss of speech, distortion and paralysis. In the form of extract or tincture it is a valuable remedy in the hands of a medical man, either as an anodyne, a hypnotic or a sedative. The extract of henbane is rich in nitrate of potassium and other inorganic salts. The smoking of the seeds and capsules of henbane is noted in books as a somewhat dangerous remedy adopted by country people for toothache. Accidental poisoning from henbane occasionally occurs, owing sometimes to the apparent edibility and wholesomeness of the root.

See Bentley and Trumen, Medicinal Plants, 194 (1880).

<< Charles Jean Francois Henault

Henchman >>

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address