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  For entertainment, educational and informational purposes only. 

Not for diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating or preventing any disease.  Seek advice from a licensed, qualified health-care professional.

There are times in our lives when we experience pain and Black Henbane is one of the few wild herbs that can address such problems.  Henbane has powerful medicinal qualities so do not experiment on your own. Henbane is a narcotic but it can also be toxic.  The second year is more potent and commands a higher price in pharmacopia. 

Black henbane is common in disturbed open sites in rangeland and pastures, along fence rows, roadsides, riparian areas and waste areas. It is also found on heavily grazed sites. Its growth is enhanced by increased levels of soil nitrogen.

It is part of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family that includes tomatoes, potato, belladona, and tobacco.  It is between 1-6 feet tall with pale yellow or white flowers with violet capillaries. 

Henbane is considered an invasive or noxious species destined for eradication or relegated to seed-vaults.  It is considered a weed and is not allowed to be transported across state lines in forage.

Henbane begins to flower in May.  Seeds remain viable in the earth for 5 years. 

The seed should be sown in the open early in May or as soon as the ground is warm, as thinly as possible, in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart, the seedlings thinned out to 2 feet apart in the rows, as they do not stand transplanting well. Only the larger seedlings should be reserved, especially those of a bluish tint. The soil where the crop is to be, must have been well-manured, and must be kept moist until the seeds have germinated, and also during May and June of the first year. It is also recommended to sow seeds of biennial Henbane at their natural ripening time, August, in porous soil.

 History of Henbane Use

Henbane has been used since the empire of Babylon, 15th century B.C.E. to heal toothaches as recorded in the Ebers papyrus.  Dioscorides (1st century) also mentions henbane as a treatment for toothache.

During the Middle-Ages burglars put the plant on coals that heated public baths in order to drowse the clients and then pick their pockets.

Native Americans used henbane as a stunning agent to catch fish.  They also used it for diverse pain, meningitis, black vomit, and worms.

The Chinese use henbane for convulsions, psychoses, and other uses described.

Farmers throughout history have said that swine can feed upon Henbane will no ill effects.  Cows can be poisoned by Henbane so it is important to grow it in a location secure from domestic animals.  Some farmers used a few seeds of Henbane added to grain to quiet animals allowing them to fatten up for slaughter. 

 Harvesting Henbane

Image: Henbane going to seed

Much of the efficacy of Henbane depends upon the time at which it is gathered. The leaves should be collected when the plant is in full flower. In the biennial plant, those of the second year are preferred to those of the first.  The leaves of the biennial variety are collected in June or the first week of July and those of the annual in August.

The leaves and flowering tops which constitute the ‘Second Biennial Henbane’ are collected either with or without the smaller branches to which they are attached and carefully dried, unless they are required for the preparation of the juice or green extract, when they should be sent to the distillery at once on cutting.

Traditional Healing Using Henbane Image:  Montana Plants

  • The whole plant contains alkaloids that acts upon the nervous system and include atropine, hyoscine, scopolamine.  It is a powerful antispasmodic, analgesic, and narcotic.  When taken in high doses it stupefies and is hallucinogenic. The smoke of henbane is used for asthma crisis.  It is used for toothache and facial pain, and tumors.
  • Henbane works on the autonomic nervous system and smooth muscles.  They relax organs containing smooth muscles such as the digestive system. 
  • Henbane has been used throughout history for the treatment of scar tissue. 
  • Henbane can be used topically to ease the pain of gout, rheumatism, sciatica, muscle tremors, and neuralgia. 
  • Baron Storch used a Henbane extract for epilepsy, convulsions, and other nervous conditions. 
  • It is similar in action to belladonna and stramonium, though milder in its effects.
  • The drug combines the therapeutic actions of its two alkaloids, Hyoscyamine and Hyoscine. Because of the presence of the former, it tends to check secretion and to relax spasms of the involuntary muscles, while through the narcotic effects of its hyoscine it lessens pain and exercises a slight somnifacient action.
  • Its most important use is in relief of painful spasmodic affections of the muscles, as in lead colic and irritable bladder. It will also relieve pain in cystitis.
  • Combined with silver nitrate, it is especially useful in the treatment of gastric ulcer and chronic gastric catarrh.
  • In small repeated doses, Henbane has been found to have a tranquilizing effect upon persons affected by severe nervous irritability, producing a tendency to sleep, not followed by the disorder of the digestive organs and headache. Henbane is often preferred when an anodyne or sedative is required. The comparatively small amount of atropine present does not give rise to the excitation and delirium occasioned by belladona. It is, therefore, used in insomnia, especially when opiates cannot be given.
  • A watered solution of the extract applied to the eye has a similar effect to that of atropine, in dilating the pupil and assisting the cure of its internal inflammation. This dilution leaves no injurious effect afterwards.
  • In the form of extract or tincture, it is a valuable remedy, either as an anodyne, a hypnotic or a sedative, and will take effect when other drugs fail. When used for such a purpose, it is the active principle, Hyoscine, that is employed. This is very powerful – only a very small amount is used, from 1/200 to 1/70 of a grain of the Hydrobromate of Hyoscine. This medicinal herb is considered poisonous.
  • Hyoscine, in combination with other drugs, has of late come into use in the treatment known as Hypnotic Sleep. This is on account of its sedative action on brain and spine, causing loss of recollection and insensibility.
  • A sedative application for external use is prepared by macerating Henbane leaves in alcohol, mixing the strong tincture with olive oil and heating in a water-bath, until the alcohol is dissipated.
  • Henbane poultice have been employed also to allay pain in cancerous ulcers, irritable sores and swellings. The extract, in form of suppositories is used to alleviate the pain of hemorrhoids.

Contraindications for Henbane Use

Do not use henbane if one has:  tachycardia, arrhythmia,  closed-angle glaucoma, pulmonary edema, stenosis of the gastrointestinal tract. 

Do not use if you are on tricyclic anti-depressants, amantadine, antihistamines, phenothiazines, procainamide, or quinidine.

 Preparation and Use of Henbane

Infusion:  10-15 grams of leaves per liter of water.  Drink two cups of water a day.

Powder of dry leaves.  The maximum dose is 1 gram.  Single dose is .5 gram.  Keep powder in dry, dark, and sealed container.  Do not store with other medications or preparations.

 Externally Poultice

Mash leaves, apply to aching area for several minutes only.

One can use a decotion of Henbane on a person’s feet to cause sleep. It is said that even smelling the flowers can cause sleep in some persons.

The leaves of the Henbane can cool hot inflammations of the eyes and other parts of the body according to Culpepper. 

Warning!

 Reduce dosage or stop treatment if you notice: 

  • Skin reddening
  • Dry mouth
  • Tachycardia
  • Arrhythmia
  • Mydrisis
  • Decreased sweat
  • Nauseous
  • Weakness
  • Sleepiness (means over-dosage)
  • 100mg lethal dosage carries with it the danger of fatally slowing the breathing

 Overdose

The historical remedies to help those that have overdosed on Henbane is to:

Drink goat’s milk, honeyed water, or pine kernels, with sweet wine

Fennel seed, Nettle seed, the seed of Cresses, Mustard or Radish; also Onions or Garlic taken in wine, do all help to free them from danger and restore them to their due temper again.

Take notice, that this herb must sparingly and with great consideration, be taken inwardly;

Outwardly, an oil, ointment, or plaster is most effective for the gout . . . to stop the toothache, applied to the aching side….’

 Purchasing Henbane Seeds

 You can purchase Henbane seeds at:  Richters SeedsHenbane (Hyoscyamus niger) Seeds

Henbane is a powerful tool for your natural first aide kit.  It is not to be used without great care.  You can rest comfortably knowing that you do have an alternative to pharmaceutical synthetics that contain a host of side-effects. 

Source: here

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