Henbane, Black (Hyoscyamus niger) seeds, organic
Botanical Name: Hyoscyamus niger
Other Names: Stinking Nightshade, Black Henbane
Family: Nightshade Family – Solanaceae
Plant Type: often grown as an annual, 90 days to flowers
Height: 6–40 in.
Habitat: Waste ground, roadsides, yards, gardens, soil heaps, fields, church lands, ruins, mills, harbors.
Flowering time: June–September.
Description: One of the most fascinating and insidious plants one can grow from seed. The flowers are deeply attractive. The name henbane dates at least to AD 1265. The origins of the word are unclear, but "hen" probably originally meant death rather than referring to chickens. Other etymologies of the word associate it with the Indo-European stem *bhelena whose hypothetical meaning is 'crazy plant' and with the Proto-Germanic element bil meaning ‘vision, hallucination; magical power, miraculous ability’.
Henbane 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". These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and a sensation of flight. It was originally used in continental Europe, Asia, and the Arab world, though it did spread to England in the Middle Ages
Henbane is sometimes identified with the "hebenon" poured into the ear of Hamlet's father, although other candidates for hebenon exist.
Henbane seeds have been found in a Viking grave that was unearthed near Fyrkat, Denmark in 1977. Given that crushing and rubbing henbane petals onto the skin provides a numbing effect along with a mild sensation of flying, this finding has led to the theory that Vikings used henbane (rather than mushrooms or alcohol) to incite the legendary rage of Beserkers.
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