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Constituents: Apoatropine. Arsenic. Atropine. Calcium. Chlorogenic acid. Choline. Copper. Coumarin. Esculetin. Fat. Gaba. Hyoscyamine. Iron. Linoleic acid. Magnesium. Manganese. Mucilage. Myristic acid. Oleic acid. Palmitic acid. Potassium. Pyridine. Rutin. Scopolamine. Sodium. Stearic acid. Zinc. (USDA).
Pharmacology - The alkaloids in Hyoscyamus are parasympatholytic, competitively inhibiting the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Its action is similar to Atropa belladonna, though the higher proportion of hyoscine in Hyoscyamus makes cerebral excitement less likely. It has peripheral effects on the autonomic nervous system and sedative effects on the central nervous system.
Hyosciamine and hyoscine cause a decrease in sweat, salivary, gastric and bronchial secretions, decrease the tone of smooth muscle in the digestive and urinary tracts, and increase the pulse rate.
Toxicology: All parts of this plant are poisonous; the seeds, however, are the most active, the root next, and lastly, the leaves and flowers. The effluvium arising from the cut and and bruised leaves has been known to cause of itself, vertigo, stupor, and syncope.
On Animals . Orfila states that the drug acts upon dogs much the same as upon man, producing dilation of the pupils, weakness of the posterior extremities, staggering, and insensibility. Moirond states that, given in large quantities to horses, it causes slight dilation of the pupils, spasmodic movements of the limbs, and increased heart's action. On cats it acts much the same as upon dogs. Upon gallinaceous birds it is supposed to have a baneful action; while cows, sheep, goats, rabbitis, and many other animals are said to be but slightly affected.
On Man . The action of Hyoscyamus upon man, is that of a powerful narcotic poison, a severe, cardiac, and cerebral stimulant, and tends to produce general paralysis of the nervous system. Of the delirium produced, Dr. Harley remarks - as Dioscorides had before him - that it greatly resembles that produced by alcoholic intoxication.
The symptoms in general, resulting from taking the drug, are: Lively, wild, or busy delirium, tending more to the grotesque than to the harmful type; the patient laughs, talks, gesticulates, dances, etc., and carphologia is often noticed; vertigo and confusion; eyes red, wild, and sparkling, with dilation of the pupils; insensibility of the retina, and illusions of sight; redness of the face; dryness of the mucous membranes of the mouth and fauces; paralysis of the tongue; difficult deglutition; nausea and vomiting; tympanitic distention of the abdomen; diarrhoea, and involuntary passages; paralysis of the bladder, and retention of urine; dry cough; rapid, irregular heart's action; trembling of the upper limbs, weakness of the legs; convulsions; insomnia; chill, fever, and sweat.
The following cases of poisoning by this drug, will serve to show its method of action; Nine persons, having eaten the roots of Hyoscyamus, were seized with alarming symptoms: "Some were speechless, and showed no other signs of life than by convulsions, contortions of their limbs, and the risus sardonicus ; all having their eyes starting out of their heads, and their mouths drawn backwards on both sides; others had all the symptoms alike; however, five of them did open their mouths, now and then, but it was to utter howlings. The madness of all of these patients was so complete, and their agitations so violent, that, in order to give one of them an antidote, I was obliged to employ six strong men to hold him while I was getting his teeth asunder, to pour down the remedy. Upon their recovery, all objects appeared to them as scarlet, for two or three days. " - (Dr. Patouillat, Phil . Trans ., 40 , 446 .)
Seven persons ate broth, in which the leaves of Hyoscyamus had been boiled; symptoms of intoxication soon followed: "I saw them about three hours after having eat it; and then three of the men were become quite insensible, did not know their comrades, talked incoherently, and were in as high a delirium as people in the rage of a fever; all of them had low, irregular pulses, slavered, and frequently changed color; their eyes looked fiery, and they catched at whatever lay next them, calling out that it was going to fall. " - (Dr. Stedman, Phil . Trans ., 1750.)
Wepfer relates the several monks made a repast on the roots of wild endive (Cichorium Intibus), among which were mixed, by mistake, two roots of Henbane. In a few hours some experienced
vertigo, others a burning of the tongue, lips, and throat; severe pains were also felt in the iliac regions, and in all the joint. The intellectual faculties and the organs of vision were perverted, and they gave themselves up to actions which were mad and ridiculous. In other cases, a haggard countenance, dilation of the pupils, difficulty of breathing, small and intermittent pulse, loss of speech, trismus, and temporary loss of intellect have been the principal symptoms; While the extremities have been observed to be cold and nearly paralyzed. - (Orfila 2, 135)
A women, aet. 34, swallowed, in mistake for a black draught, an ounce and a half of the tincture of Hyoscyamus, made apparently from the biennial plant, and resembling the pharmacopoeial tincture. (The annual plant is said to make weakar tincture), In ten minutes she had a hot, burning, pricking sensation in the hands, feet, and legs; became giddy and delirious, and complained of great dryness in the throat. Shortly after, in attempting to get out of bed, she found her legs were powerless. A purplish rash appeared over the body, particularly about the neck and face, which were much swollen. The draught was taken at Five AM At Nine AM Dr. White found her almost insensible and unable to speak. The tongue was swollen, brown, and dry, and out difficulty; the face swollen and scarlet; the pupils were so dilated that the iris was a mere threadlike ring; the skin hot and dry. The poison had been taken on an empty stomach. There was no sickness. In three hours she passed a motion smelling strongly of this drug, but the odor was not perceived in the urine. She could not see distinctly. All motion in the extremities was lost, and their sensibility was diminished. At Four PM she was delirious, and there was a sickness; Eleven PM, shivering and coldness of the skin. At Nine AM the next day she could see and articulate better. The iris was half a line in breadth. Brandy, opium, ammonia, and other remedies were used, and she gradually improved. It was six days before she acquired a partial use of her legs, and could not then stand without being supported on both sides. She had quite lost her memory, and talked in a rembling manner. She was unable to remember for a minute a single or word she had uttered or read. Dr. White, Lancet , July 5, 1873, p. 8.)
Two men ate the young shoots of the plant. The first effect was that the earth seemed to pass suddenly from under them; the tongue became paralyzed, and their limbs were cold, torpid, paralyzed, and insensible; the arms were in a state spasmodic action; the pupils were dilated, the look was fixed and vacant; breathing difficult; the pulse small and intermittent. Beside these symptoms, there was the spasmodic grin ( risus sardonicus ), with delirium, and the jaws were spasmodically closed. Under treatment the men recovered in the course of two days. - (Orfila, 4eme ed., vol. 2, p. 264)
A women collected in a flied a quantity of the roots by mistake for parsnips. They were boiled in soup, of which nine persons in the family partook without remarking any particular taste. Very shortly afterward the whole of these persons felt uneasy, and complained of a bitter, acrid taste in the mouth, with nausea. The pupils of the eyes were dilated, and there was indistinctness of vision. These symptoms were followed by great restlessness, convulsions, and continued delirium. The patients successively lost the power of vision, hearing, and voice, and were affected with stupor and insurmountable somnolency. - ( Ed . Med . and S . J ., Oct ., 1844, P. 562)
Post - Mortem . Orfila quotes a case of fatal poisoning by the roots, and Wibmer one by the leaves. The appearances were those of general congestion of dark - colored liquid blood in the venous system, such condition being found in the lungs and brain. There are commonly found no traces of irritation or inflammation in the stomach or bowels. (Millspaugh’s Medicinal Plants).
Medicinal Action and Uses. Antispasmodic, hypnotic, mild diuretic. The drug combines the therapeutic acion of its two alkaloids, Hyoscyamine and Hyoscine. Because of the former it tends to check secreation 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 unstriped muscles, as in lead colic and irritable bladder. It will also relieve pain in cystitis. It is much employed to allay nervous irritaion, in various forms of hysteria or irrtable cough, the tincture or juice prepared from the bruised, fresh leaves and tops being given in mixtures as an antispasmodic in asthma. It is used to relieve the griping caused by drastic purgatives, and is a common ingredient of aperient pills, especially those containing aloes and colocynth. In small repeated doses, Henbane has been found to have a tranquillizing effect upon persons affected by severe nervous irrtability, producing a tendency to sleep, not followed by disorder of the digestive organs and headache, which too frequently result form the administration of repeated doses of opium, to which Henbane is often preferred when anodyne or sedative is required.