There are 15 species of tap-rooted, often unpleasant smelling, hairy annuals, biennials, and perennials in this genus, which is distributed through W Europe, N Africa, and C and SW Asia. Hyoscyamus niger is found in bare, sandy soi, often near the sea. Henbanes make interesting plants for dry slopes or walls, but are seldom cultivated. Hyoscyamus niger was recommended by Dioscorides in the first century CE as a soporific and painkiller, and long before that, in Babylonian times, it was smoked to relieve toothache. It contains tropane alkaloids (mainly hyoscyamine and hyoscine), as found in the related Atropa bella-donna (see, deadly nightshade). Other species grown for alkaloid extraction include H. muticus (Egyptian henbane) and H. albus (Russian henbane). Henbane is notorious as an herb of sorcery, used to cause hallucinations and delirium. It has also been used by poisoners: Hamlet's father was dispatched by having henbane juice poured into his ear, and Dr. Crippen murdered his wife with hyoscine. Hyoscymus is from the Greek hys, "pig" and kyamos, "bean", perhaps because pigs can eat henbane without being poisoned.

Henbane, which literally means "killer of poultry", is a weed native to the Mediterranean area that has antispasmodic, hypnotic, and mild diuretic effects. Its leaves and seeds contain the alkaloids hyoscyamine, hyoscine, and scopolamine, which relaxes spasms of the involuntary muscles, lessen pain, and induce drowsiness. The pharmaceutical industry uses henbane alkaloids as a basis for certain painkillers and antispasmodics.

Fetid annual or biennial with pale green, ovate leaves, to 30cm (12in) long, which are very hairy and sticky. Cream, purple-veined, 5-lobed flowers, to 2.5cm (1in) across, appear from spring to autumn, followed by capsules 1cm (3/8in) long.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Black Henbane, Devil's Eye, Hogbean, Poison Tobacco, Stinking Nightshade
Botanical Name:
Hyoscyamus niger
Native Location:
Europe, W Asia
Light, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil in sun.
By seed sown in spring. Usually self-sows.
Flowering tops and leaves are collected in summer for use in dry and liquid extracts, medicated oil, and tinctures.
60-90cm (2-3ft)
1m (3ft)
Parts Used:
Whole plant, leaves
A narcotic, sedative herb with an unpleasant taste, that relaxes spasms, relieves pain, and dilates the pupils.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for asthma, whooping cough, motion sickness, Menière's syndrome, tremor in senility or paralysis, and as a pre-operative medicine. Excess causes impaired vision, convulsions, coma, and death from heart or respiratory failure. Externally for neuralgia and dental and rheumatic pain. Added to laxatives to prevent griping, and to anti-asthma and herbal cigarrettes. For use by qualified practitioners only.
To treat toothache, facial pain, lower abdominal pain, and other kinds of pain; to help reduce existing scar tissue. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of henbane to treat dyspeptic complaints such as heartburn and bloating.
All parts are extremely toxic if eaten. Possible skin irritant or allergen.
This herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of henbane is approximately 0.5 gm of the standardized powder (0.25 to 0.35 mg total alkaloids).
Possible Side Effects:
Henbane's side effects include constipation, dry mouth, reduced sweating, overheating, and difficulty in urinating.
Drug Interactions:
Taking henbane with these drugs may increase some of the effects of the drug:
Acetaminophen, Chlorpheniramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Children's Tylenol Plus Cold, Sinutab Sinus Allergy Maximum Strength)
Acetaminophen, Dextromethorphan and Pseudoephedrine, (Alka-Seltzer Plus Flu Liqui-Gels, Sudafed Severe Cold)
Acrivastine and Pseudoephedrine, (Semprex-D)
Amantadine, (Endantadine, Symmetrel)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amitriptyline and Chlordiazepoxide, (Limbitrol)
Amitriptyline and Perphenazine, (Etrafon, Triavil)
Azatadine, (Optimine)
Azatadine and Pseudoephedrine, (Rynatan Tablet, Trinalin)
Azelastine, (Astelin, Optivar)
Brompheniramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Children's Dimetapp Elixir Cold & Allergy, Lodrane)
Carbinoxamine, (Histex CT, Histex PD)
Carbinoxamine and Pseudoephedrine, (Rondec Drops, Sildec)
Cabinoxamine, Pseudoephedrine and Dextromethorphan, (Rondec-DM Drops, Tussafed)
Cetirizine, (Reactine, Zyrtec)
Chlorpheniramine and Acetaminophen, (Coricidin HBP Cold and Flu)
Chlorpheniramine and Phenylephrine, (Histatab Plus, Rynatan)
Chlorpheniramine, Ephedrine, Phenylephrine, and Carbetapentane, (Rynatuss, Tynatuss Pediatric)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine and Dextromethorphan, (Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine and Methscopolamine, (AH-Chew, Extendryl)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, and Phenyltoloxamine, (Comhist, Nalex-A)
Chlorpheniramine, Phenylephrine, Codeine, and Potassium Iodide, (Pediacof)
Chlorpheniramine, Pseudoephedrine, and Codeine, (Dihistine DH, Ryna-C)
Chlorpheniramine, Pseudoephedrine, and Dextromethorphan, (Robitussin Pediatric Night Relief, Vicks Pediatric 44M)
Chlorpromazine, (Largactil, Thorazine)
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Clemastine, (Tavist Allergy)
Clomipramine, (Anafranil, Novo-Clopramine)
Clozapine, (Clozeril, Gen-Clozapine)
Cyproheptadine, (Periactin)
Deptropine, (Deptropine FNA)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Desloratadine, (Aerius, Clarinex)
Dexbrompheniramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Drixomed, Drixoral Cold & Allergy)
Dexchlorpheniramine, (Polaramine)
Dimethindene, (Fenistil)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Diphenhydramine and Pseudoephedrine, (Benadryl Allergy/Decongestant, Benadryl Children's Allergy and Sinus)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Doxylamine and Pyridoxine, (Diclecti)
Epinastine, (Elestat)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Fexofenadine, (Allegra)
Fexofenadine and Pseudoephedrine, (Allegra-D)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Hydrocodone, Carbinoxamine, and Pseudoephedrine, (Histex HC, Tri-Vent HC)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Ketotifen, (Novo-Ketotifen, Zaditor)
Levocabastine, (Livostin)
Lofepramine, (Feprapax, Gamanil)
Loratidine, (Alaver, Claritin)
Loratidine and Pseudoephedrine, (Claritin-D 12 Hour, Claritin-D 24 Hour)
Mebhydrolin, (Bexidal, Incida)
Melitracen, (Dixeran)
Mesoridazine, (Serentil)
Mizolastine, (Elina, Mizolle)
Nizatidine, (Axid, PMS-Nizatidine)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Olopatadine, (Panatol)
Oxatomide, (Cenacert, Tinset)
Oxbutinin, (Ditropan, Oxytrol)
Perphenazine, (Apo-Perphenazine, Trilafon)
Procainamide, (Procanbid, Pronestyl-SR)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Promethazine and Codeine, (Phenergan with Codeine)
Promethazine and Dextromethorphan, (Promatussin DM)
Promethazine and Phenylephrine, (Promethazine and Phenylephrine)
Promethazine, Phenylephrine, and Codeine, (Promethazine, Phenylephrine and Codeine)
Protriptyline, (Vivactil)
Quinidine, (Novo-Quinidin, Quinaglute Dura-Tabs)
Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
Thiethylperazine, (Torecan)
Thioridazine, (Mellaril)
Thiothixene, (Navane)
Trifluoperazine, (Novo-Trifluzine, Stelazine)
Trimipramine, (Apo-Trimip, Surmontil)
Tripelennamine, (PBZ, PBZ-SR)
Triprolidine and Pseudoephedrine, (Actifed Cold and Allergy, Silafed)
Tripolidine, Pseudoephedrine, and Codeine, (CoActifed, Covan)
Disease Effects:
The hyoscamine and scopolamine found in the herb may trigger rapid heart rate, and worsen fever, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), congestive heart failure, urinary retention, constipation, narrow-angle glaucoma, stomach ulcers, and diseases involving obstruction of the gastointestinal tract.
Supplement Interactions:
May increase positive and negative effects of herbs and supplements that have anticholinergic effects, such as Belladonna and Scopolia.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 239-240
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp269-271