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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
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] Its usage was originally in continental Europe and Asia, 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 in low doses. Its name came from Anglo-Saxon hennbana = "killer of hens". Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids have been found in the foliage and seeds of the plant.[1]

Common effects of henbane use 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. Despite this it is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth.

It was traditionally used in German pilsner beers as a flavouring, until the Bavarian Purity Law was passed in 1516 and outlawed the use of Henbane and allowed only the use of hops.[citation needed]  

Henbane or Hyoscyamus was also known to have been used as an anesthetic in the first Arab hospitals.

In 1910, a well known British homeopathic doctor, Hawley Harvey Crippen, used henbane to kill his wife.

Henbane is behind the etymology of the Czech town Plzeň and pilsener beer.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Roberts 1998, p. 31.


  • Roberts, Margaret F. & Michael Wink (1998), , Springer, 31–32, ISBN 0306454653, . Retrieved on 2006-12-27.
  •, , . Retrieved on 2007-08-18.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Henbane". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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