Characteristics of Henbane Tree (Hyoscyamus niger) in the Wild

Hyoscyamus niger
Henbane or Stinking nightshade is a poisonous flower plant in the Solanaceae family, which originated in Eurasia, and is now distributed globally as a plant for pharmaceutical purposes.

Currently, henbane is included in an endangered plant according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN).

In the past, henbane was used in traditional herbal medicine to treat bone ailments, rheumatism, toothaches, asthma, coughs, neurological diseases, and stomach aches. It may also be used as an analgesic, sedative, and narcotic in some cultures.

WARNING: Substances in henbane foliage and seeds include hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and tropane alkaloids. The effects of consuming henbane are hallucinations, dilated pupils, restlessness, skin flushing, hypertension, hyperpyrexia, ataxia, and seizures. Initial effects usually last three to four hours, while after-effects can last up to three days.

If the use is continued the next day, side effects that will be experienced are dryness in the mouth, confusion, movement problems, nearsightedness, and memory loss. Use outside of doses can cause delirium, coma, respiratory distress, and death.

The henbane tree was historically used in the manufacture of liqueur which is mixed with a variety of other deadly plants such as mandrake, nightshade, and datura. These psychoactive properties can cause users who consume them to experience visual hallucinations and the sensation of flying.

Initially, henbane was only used by the Kuni people on the continents of Europe, Asia, and Arabia. Then, it spread to England in the Middle Ages.

The henbane plant is also said to be used as a fumigant for magical purposes. Albertus Magnus, in his “De Vegtabilibusm” (1250), reports that astrologers use henbane to appeal to the souls of the dead as well as demons.

Henbane has been demonized since the late Middle Ages when he became inseparably associated with magic and evil.

This plant, listed as Herba Apollinaris, was used to produce prophecies by the priests of Apollo.

Recently, its use in Neolithic Scotland has been debated. John Gerard’s Herball states: “the leaves, seeds, and extracts, when taken by mouth can induce restless sleep, such as sleeping drunk, which lasts a long time and is possibly fatal to the patient. If henbane decoction is used for washing, it can also cause sleep.”


Characteristics of Henbane Leaf

Hyoscyamus niger Leaf
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The leaves are oval, rough-toothed, and grow around the stem.


Characteristics of Henbane Flower

Hyoscyamus niger Flower
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The flowers appear on the petiole, the hermaphrodites have radial symmetry with a double flower sheath. Corolla-shaped funnel yellowish white and veined purple.


Characteristics of Henbane Fruit

Hyoscyamus niger Fruit
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The fruit is round, about 1.5 cm long, and covered by petals. The seeds are brownish-gray and measuring about 1-1.3 mm.


Characteristics of Henbane Tree

Hyoscyamus niger Tree
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Henbane is a short-lived plant that is usually only 1-2 years old. When over one year old, this plant will flower and produce fruit.

The plants themselves can grow to a height of 60-100 cm (rarely 150 cm). The roots are bobbin-shaped and the top is radish-shaped, the stems are sticky due to the hair glands that cover them.

In the wild, Henbane grows with weeds, on roadsides, bushes, vacant lots, edges of gutters, etc. This plant thrives in nutrient-rich and nitrogen-rich sandy soil.


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