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Past uses -
Henbane seeds were a domestic remedy for toothache in the Middle Ages. The seeds were heated on a hot plate, and the smoke inhaled with a funnel.
Gerard writes ì Drawers of teeth who run about the country and pretend they cause worms to come forth from the teeth by burning the seed in a chafing dish of coals, the party holding his mouth over the fume thereof, do have some crafty companions who convey small lute strings into the water, persuading the patient that these little creepers come out of his mouth, or other parts which it was intended to ease. ì
In fact, the small, white cylindrical embryos of the seed are forced out of them by the heat ( especially if the seed is put into a basin of boiling water ), and these were mistaken by the poor sufferer to be worms from the painful tooth or teeth.
In fact, the medicinal uses of henbane date from very ancient times.
Dioscorides ( First century AD ) used it to procure sleep and alleviate pain. Celsus ( of the same period ) and others used it both internally and externally for the same purpose. Pliny was hostile to its use, declaring it to be ì of the nature of wine, and therefore offensive to the understanding,î
Benedictus Crispus ( AD681 ) mentions it under the names Hyoscyamus and Symphonica. In the 10th century AD, it is mentioned as Jusquiamus. There is frequent mention in the Anglo-Saxon texts on medicine in the 11th Century AD, under the name Henbell, and in other texts as Caniculata, Cassilgo and Deus Caballinus.
Gerard says ì The leaves, the seeds and the juice, when taken internally cause an unquiet sleep, like unto the sleep of drunkenness, which continueth long and is deadly to the patient. To wash the feet in a decoction of Henbane, as also the often smelling of the flowers causeth sleep.î
Culpeper writesseed,,î I wonder how astrologers could take on them to make this a herb of Jupiter; and yet Mizaldus, a man of penetrating brain, was of that opinion as well as the rest: the herb is indeed under the dominion of Saturn, and I prove it by this argument. All the herbs which delight most to grow in saturnine place are saturnine herbs. Both Henbane delights to grow in saturnine places, and whole cart loads of it may be found near the places where they empty the common Jakes, and scarce a ditch to be found without it growing by it. Ergo, it is a herb of Saturn. The leaves of Henbane do cool all hot inflammations in the eyes. It also assuages the pain of the gout, the sciatica and other pains in the joints which arise from a hot cause. And applied with vinegar to the forehead and temples, helps the headache and want of sleep in hot fevers. The Olli of the seed is helpful for deafness, noise and worms in the ears, being dropped therein; the juice of the herb or root doth the same. The decoction of the herb or seed, or both, kills lice in man or beast. The fume of the dried herb stalks and seeds, burnred, quickly heals swellings, chilblains, or kibes in the hands or feet, by holding them in the fume thereof. The remedy to help those that have taken Henbane is to drink goatís milk, honeyed water, or pine kernels, with sweet wine; or, in the absence of those, Fennel Nettle seed, the seed of Cresses, Mustard or Radish; as 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 should never be taken inwardly; outwardly, an oil, ointment, or plaister of it is most admirable for the gout. to stop the toothache, apply to the aching side. ì
Anodyne necklaces were made from the root, and were hung about the necks of children to prevent fits and to cause easy teething.
Hyoscyamus has a long history of use on ritual, magick and witchcraft.
In 1993, the pollen and seed of black henbane were found in residues adhering to Grooved Ware pottery sherds from a Neolithic ceremonial/ ritual site at Balfarg, Fife, Scotland. The context of these sherds, associated with what has been identified as a ritual monument, and the manner of deposition, has been interpreted as ritual activity using the hallucinogenic properties of Hyoscyamus.
The ancient Egyptians recorded their knowledge of Henbane in the Ebers Papyrus, written in 1500B.C. Homer described magical drinks with effects suggestive of Hyoscyamus being the main ingredient.
In ancient Greece, it served as a poison, to mimic insanity and to enable prophecy. Some historians have suggested that the priestess as the Oracle of Delphi made her prophetic utterances while intoxicated with the smoke of Hyoscyamus seeds.
There are references to Henbane being used as an ingredient in beer in ancient Sumeria, and the Egyptians often used beer a s a carrier for their medicines.
Hyoscyamus was used extensively in witchcraft. An oil was made up and smeared liberally along the shafts of broomsticks. Because the witches were naked, the oil was rapidly absorbed through the mucous membranes, producing hallucinations of flying. Hyoscyamus was also used in drinks to induce novitiates to abandon sexual inhibitions before satanic rituals; the effect was to produce hallucinations and other aberrant behaviour.
Fumes from the burning henbane were recommended for summoning demons.
In bath houses, Henbane seeds were poured onto heating plates, and used as a fumigant as an aphrodisiac, and to heighten pleasure.
The Grimoire, the ì Sworne Book of Honorius ì contains concoctions made with several ingredients, Henbane being a major one along with Mandrake.
Other uses include its use as an ingredient in brewing Pilsener. The alkaloids are said to help create an atmosphere of well being in which quarrels can be patched up.
In the Middle Ages, most Pilsener beer was brewed by women, and if the brew went wrong, the ì brew witches ì were blamed and burned: the last burning took place in 1591.
Modern use - Hyoscyamus is mainly used for its antispasmodic effect on the digestive and urinary tracts, and to counteract griping due to purgatives. Its sedative and antispasmodic actions make it a valuable treatment in Parkinsonís disease. relieving tremor and rigidity in the early stages of the disease.
Hyoscyamus is an ingredient of some antiasthmatic smoking mixtures and herbal cigarettes.
The alkaloid hyoscine is used widely as a pre-operative medication and a travel sickness preventative. It has also been used to remove the ì rattle ì in patients who are in coma and dying, to reduce stress on those attending the death of their loved one.
Grieve quotes the use of hyoscine in psychiatric units in the treatment of mania and delirium tremens in the 1930ís.
Because of the danger of poisoning, the herb is used primarily for external applications. An oil obtained from the leaves is made into anodyne lotions for earache, neuralgia, sciatica and rheumatism.
Its use is contraindicated in tachycardiac arrhythmia and glaucoma.
Overdosage ( which is close to the therapeutic dose ) causes xerostomia, dysphagia, pupil dilation, tachycardia, restlessness, hallucinations, delirium and coma.
Dried leaf- 100-150mg. by infusion
Prepared Hyoscyamus BP ( containing 0.05% total alkaloids ): 100-200mg.
Hyoscyamus Dry Extract B.P.C.: 15-60mg
Hyoscyamus liquid extract B.P.C.: 0.2-0.5ml.
Hyoscyamus Tincture B.P ( 1:10 in 70% alcohol ): 2-5ml.
Henbane seeds are used in some parts of England as a domestic remedy for toothache; the smoke obtained by heating the seed 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 favourite remedy for toothache in the Middle Ages too, but their use is dangerous, having caused convulsions and even insanity in some instances. Both leaves and seeds have 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. In some districts of England, the horse-dealers mix the seeds of Henbane with their oats, in order to fatten their animals.