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." 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.
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.
Common effects of henbane use in humans include hallucinations, 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.
Henbane or Hyoscyamus was also known to have been used as an anesthetic in the first Arab hospitals.
Henbane is behind the etymology of the Czech town Plzeň and pilsener beer.
- Roberts 1998, p. 31.
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- Hyoscyamus albus 
- Hyoscyamus niger