Black Henbane
Hyoscyamus niger L.
Family: Solanaceae, Nightshade
Genus: Hyoscyamus
Other names: henbell, hog's bean, cassilago
Nomenclature: niger = black
Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant, weed
Medicinal plant
Poisonous plant

General: coarse, leafy, branched, strong-scented biennial or annual up to 100 cm tall, conspicuously sticky-long-hairy, especially the stem.

Leaves: alternate, numerous, often on 1 side of the branches, ovate to broadly lanceolate, stalkless, 5-20 cm long, 2-14 cm wide, rather shallowly pinnately lobed, with up to about 10 unequal, triangular, pointed segments.

Flowers: numerous in 1-sided rows on long, downward-curved branches. Mature calyx about 2.5 cm long, urn-shaped, dry, net-veined, with 5 short, triangular lobes. Corolla funnel-shaped, 2.5-4.5 cm long and nearly or quite as wide at the top, prominently purple-veined on a pale, often greenish-yellow background, more distinctly purple in the throat, the 5 rounded lobes slightly unequal. May-August.

Fruits: capsules, more or less 2-celled, 1-1.5 cm long, with strongly thickened lid, opening well above the middle, completely enclosed by the calyx. Seeds numerous, flattened, roughened.


A weed along roadsides and in disturbed areas, in many parts of MT except some in the North. Native of Europe, now casually established over much of the U.S.
Medicinal Uses

Henbane has a very long history of use as a medicinal herb, and has been widely cultivated to meet the demand for its use. It is used extensively as a sedative and pain killer and is specifically used for pain affecting the urinary tract, especially when due to kidney stones. Its sedative and antispasmodic effect makes it a valuable treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, relieving tremor and rigidity during the early stages of the disease. This species is the form generally considered best for external use, while the white henbane (H. albus) is considered the most appropriate for internal use.
All parts of the plant, but especially the leaves and the seeds, can be used - they are mildly pain-relieving, antispasmodic, mildly diuretic, hallucinogenic, hypnotic, pupil-dilating, narcotic and sedative. The plant is used internally in the treatment of asthma, whooping cough, motion sickness, Meniere's syndrome, tremor in senility or paralysis and as a pre-operative medication. Henbane reduces mucous secretions, as well as saliva and other digestive juices. Externally, it is used as an oil to relieve painful conditions such as neuralgia, dental and rheumatic pains. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is in full flower and they can then be dried for later use. There is an annual and a biennial form of this species, both can be used medicinally but the biennial form is considered to be superior. This is a very poisonous plant that should be used with great caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See the notes above on toxicity. The seed is used in the treatment of asthma, cough, epilepsy, myalgia and toothache. The seeds are used in Tibetan medicine, they are said to have a bitter, acrid taste with a neutral and poisonous potency. Anthelmintic, antitumor and febrifuge, they are used in the treatment of stomach/intestinal pain due to worm infestation, toothache, inflammation of the pulmonary region and tumors.

Poisonous Properties

All parts of henbane are very toxic. Symptoms of poisoning include impaired vision, convulsions, coma and death from heart or respiratory failure. This species is one of the sources of the hypnotic and sedative drugs hyoscyamine and scopolamine. This plant contains several alkaloids, and it has caused rare poisoning in humans, cattle, poultry, and swine. Human poisoning has been accidental or purposeful because of its reported medicinal or hallucinogenic properties. Black henbane has been used medicinally since ancient times to help with a variety of health problems and as a preventative. Its hallucinogenic effects have led people to eat the seed or chew the flowers, often with detrimental results. Ingestion causes anticholinergic syndrome with stimulatory and hallucinatory effects. Cattle have been poisoned in Europe after ingesting black henbane that was included in forage. The alkaloid content is retained upon drying, and ingestion is said to taint the milk of cows. Poultry have died after ingesting the seeds, and pigs have died after eating the roots.

Other Uses

The leaves scattered about a house will drive away mice.

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