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The medicinal uses of Henbane date from remote ages; it was well known to the Ancients who used it to aid sleep and alleviate pain. Others made use of it for the same purpose, internally and externally.
Henbane was omitted from the London Pharmacopoeia of 1746 and 1788, and only restored in 1809, its re-introduction being chiefly due to experiments and recommendations by Baron Storch, who gave it in the form of an extract, in cases of epilepsy and other nervous and convulsive diseases.
Henbane as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts of Henbane are the dried leaves or the dried leaves with the flowering branches, the dried seeds and the whole fresh flowering plant.
Henbane stops pain, and lessens perspiration. A poultice of leaves is used briefly to remove pain from wounds. There are much safer herbs to use for the same complaints, so it is best to avoid this herb. Do not use without the direct guidance of a health care professional.
In small repeated doses Henbane has been found to have a tranquillizing effect upon persons affected by severe nervous irritability, producing a tendency to sleep, not followed by the disorder of the digestive organs and headache, which too frequently result from the administration of repeated doses of opium.
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. A compound liniment of Henbane, when applied to the skin, is of great service for relieving obstinate rheumatic pains.
Henbane seeds are sometimes used as a domestic remedy for toothache; the smoke obtained by heating the seeds on a hot plate is applied to the mouth by means of a funnel, or a poultice is sometimes made from the crushed drug. The seeds were a favorite remedy for toothache in the Middle Ages, but their use is dangerous, having caused convulsions and even insanity in some instances. Both leaves and seeds have also been smoked in a pipe as a remedy for neuralgia and rheumatism, but with equal risk, being too uncertain and violent in their effect to be safe.
Henbane grows wild throughout temperate North America. Due to its toxic nature, it is not advisable to grow in the home garden. The leaves are the most powerful portion, even the odor of them when fresh will produce giddiness and stupor.
In fact, it is recorded that all the residents of a monastery were once poisoned by using the roots instead of chicory. The monks partaking of the roots for supper were all more or less affected during the night and following day, being attacked with a sort of delirious frenzy, accompanied in many cases by such hallucinations that the establishment resembled a lunatic asylum.
The herb was used in magic and diabolism, for its power of throwing its victims into convulsions. It was employed by witches in their midnight brews, and from the leaves was prepared a famous sorcerer’s ointment.
When the dried leaves are thrown upon the fire they burn with a crackling noise from the nitrate they contain, and at the same time they emit a strong odor.
Culinary Uses of Henbane
Should not be used for culinary purposes.
In mythology, we read that the dead in Hades were crowned with Henbane as they wandered hopelessly beside the Styx.
Henbane contains several poisonous alkaloids which produce convulsions, hallucinations, and death. Henbane is poisonous in all its parts, and neither drying nor boiling destroys the toxic principle. Severe poisonings are particularly conceivable in connection with the misuse of the drug as an intoxicant.
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