This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PARTS. The leaves and seeds.
Description. -- Henbane is a biennial plant. It has a long, thick, spindle-shaped, corrugated root, which is of a brown color externally, but whitish internally. The stem sometimes reaches the height of two feet, but often stops at an altitude of six inches. The leaves are large, oblong, acute, alternate, and of a pale, dull green color. They have long, glandular hairs upon the midrib. The flowers are funnel-shaped, of a dull yellow color, with purple veins and orifice. The seeds are many, small, obovate, and brownish.
History. -- Henbane is original with Europe, but has been naturalized in America. It grows in waste grounds, and flowers from July to September. The leaves and seeds are the parts medicinally used. The leaves are collected in the second year, when the plant is in flower; the seeds are gathered when perfectly ripe. It grows more plentifully than elsewhere in America, in the waste grounds of old settlements, in graveyards, and around the foundations of ruined houses. Bruise the recent leaves, and they emit a strong narcotic odor, like tobacco. Dry them and they have little smell or taste. Their virtues area completely extracted by diluted alcohol. The active principle of Henbane is called Hyosciamia, but all the recognized preparations are now known by the general name of Hyoscyamus.
Properties and Uses. -- Henbane is a powerful narcotic, but, unless improperly and injudiciously used, it is not "dangerously" poisonous, as we learn from King. All narcotics are "dangerously" poisonous if dangerously administered. Nature grows wild her most potent medicinal herbs, and those which, if used by persons who understand them, are curative of the very worst afflictions of the human race, are also destructive to a small extent if applied and administered by parties who have not thoroughly studied their properties. Medicinally used, Henbane is calmative, hypnotic, anodyne, and antispasmodic. It is much better than opium, as it does not produce constipation. It is always given, where opium does not agree, with the very best effects. I use it principally to cause sleep, and remove irregular nervous action. Combined with other preparations mentioned in many parts of this volume, it is most excellent for gout, rheumatism, asthma, chronic cough, neuralgia, irritations of the urinary organs, etc. The leaves make fine external preparations for glandular swelling or ulcers, etc. I instruct my patients never to use it, under any circumstances, without the advice of a good herbal physician.