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Poisonous Plants in GB

14 15 blAck henbAne Hyoscyamus niger Family Solanaceae. Synonyms Jupitersbean, hogsbean, deus caballinus C13 lit. horse god, Devils eye, stinking nightshade, henbell AngloSaxon, jusquiame French, symphonica. A laxstemmed annual with lobed leaves and covered in sticky glandular hairs. Its unusual purpleveined yellow flowers with dark centres are evocative of the name Devils eye. Henbane is found in well drained sunny sites and waste ground, favouring chalk and sandy soils. Deadly and similar in effect to deadly nightshade, the roots have been mistaken for parsnips. In classical times henbane was a local and general anaesthetic. The ancient Egyptians deadened toothache by allowing the smoke from smouldering henbane to enter the mouth and the priestesses at the Oracle of Delphi used it to assist in their prophecy. Associated with confusion and madness, it served to confound even the the dead in Hades, who were crowned with the herb making them forget their former lives as they walked beside the river Styx. Henbane was used in the witches flying ointment and was probably the inspiration for the moment in Apuleius The Golden Ass c. 170 AD when Pamphile transformed herself into an owl. According to Gerard oft smelling of the flowers causeth sleep. First hand accounts from the medically supervised use of henbane record deep sleep interspersed with lucid perceptions of long distance flight, and a sensation of lifting from the ground whilst walking. The active ingredients are atropine, hyoscine and hyoscyamine. In medicine, preparations are used for spasmodic pain, toothache and asthma. Hyoscine is used as a premedication in anaesthesia and in travel sickness pills. Henbane causes an elevation of blood pressure and pulse. Overdose causes central nervous system paralysis, respiratory collapse and death.
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