Active Ingredients. - The principal activity of hyoscyamus resides in the alkaloid Hyoscyamia, which, after various erroneous processes, was obtained in unmistakable form by Geiger and Hesse (1833). Hyoscyamia, when pure, crystallizes slowly in stellate or tuft-like groups of silky odorless needles, which are occasionally transparent. It has a very sharp and unpleasant taste; is almost insoluble in cold water, more easily soluble in hot; and soluble in spirit, ether, chloroform, amylic alcohol, benzole, and dilute acids. The pure alkaloid is permanent in the air; the impure (which is amorphous) is hygroscopic, and much more soluble in water than the former; it has also a tobacco-like odor.

Besides the alkaloid, an empyreumatic oil has been obtained, by Morris, from the destructive distillation of the plant; it is identical in character with a similar oil obtained from digitalis, and is a powerful narcotic.

Hyoscyamia must not be confounded with an impure resinoid body, called "Hyoscyamin," which contains the true alkaloid, but from its un certain strength is an objectionable preparation.

Physiological Action. - The offensive odor of the aerial parts of hyoscyamus is such as to deter, or at all events to disincline, any one from swallowing even a small portion, unless designedly. The roots, however, being sweetish, have sometimes been eaten by mistake for those of some esculent vegetable, in the same way as those of certain poisonous Umbelliferae; and the results have then been vertigo, burning sensations in the lips, the tongue, and the throat, and severe pains in the iliac region, and in all the joints. The intellectual faculties soon afterward become perverted and the eyesight dim, the sufferer giving himself up to mad and ridiculous actions. Orfila and Christison give accounts of such cases; in some of them the patients recovered, while in others the symptoms increased and ended in death. Dissection of the bodies of those who have died from eating hyoscyamus shows considerable inflammation of the stomach, the surface of which is covered with gangrenous spots, while the brain exhibits appearances betokening great vascular excitement.

(Lawson (Report of West Riding Lunatic Asylum, 1876) says: "With regard to the physiological actions of the alkaloid, it was determined that the effect on man of a moderate dose was the production of a mental condition which partook of all the leading symptoms of simple mania, but which in addition was characterized by extreme physical helplessness, intermittent drowsiness, hypermetropia, and dryness of the mouth.")

A curious account is given in the "Philosophical Transactions," vol. xl. p. 446, of the effects of henbane upon a party of persons who ate the roots: some became speechless and convulsed, while others howled deliriously; in all of them there was protrusion of the eyes, with contraction of the mouth, and delirium.

To some of these unfortunates a certain measure of relief was afforded by the use of emetics; but their sight was impaired for many days, and every object that was looked at seemed to be scarlet. In the rare instances in which portions of the herbage of hyoscyamus have been mixed with green vegetable food and inadvertently swallowed, those who have eaten the leaves have suffered from vertigo, gripes, and purging, and (as in the cases where the root was eaten) they have made frightful grimaces.

Another effect produced by taking an overdose of hyoscyamus is remarkable dilatation of the pupil.

Therapeutic Action. - Regarded as a medicine, henbane is one of the most valuable narcotics we possess. The principal uses to which it is applied are those in which it can be substituted for opium, which drug disagrees with the stomach in many instances, or is contra-indicated by peculiar symptoms. Hyoscyamus appears, moreover, to be tolerably free from the constipating effects of opium, especially when administered in large doses. In the maladies to which children are subject, hyoscyamus is decidedly preferable to opium. It is valuable during dentition and in convulsions, the properties being such as alleviate pain and subdue irritation. In moderate doses it is a powerful sedative, diminishing excessive irritability; it induces sleep, and relieves chronic and anomalous pains of the abdominal viscera. It is valuable, also, in irritable conditions of the kidneyss, the ureters, and the bladder, and in hysteria, gout, rheumatism, chordee, palpitation of the heart, and "painters' colic."

In its operation, as would be anticipated from its near botanical affinities, hyoscyamus has a very close resemblance to belladonna and stramonium. All three of these drugs are mydriatics (i. e., they dilate the pupil); they also produce dryness of the mouth, throat, and air-passages; they also cause fulness, vertigo, hallucinations, and delirium; and act similarly upon the pulse, each of them reducing its force and frequency when administered in moderate doses, and quickening it when given in larger ones.

Not that all three medicines are correspondingly energetic in the same directions; hyoscyamus is said to dilate the pupil more powerfully than either belladonna or stramonium, but in all other respects it is the feeblest of this famous trio. Unlike the other two, hyoscyamus is not known ever to produce involuntary evacuations from the bladder or the rectum; nor, while belladonna and stramonium (when exhibited in large doses) are apt to produce a decided eruption upon the skin - belladonna, one of a scarlatinoid character, and stramonium an erysipelatoid one - is hyoscyamus likely to induce any eruption at all; and when an eruption does follow its employment, the color is less livid. All three medicines appear to have very much the same general action, the operation varying only in power and extent, as, for example, in cases of cerebral hypenemia, the severer forms of which are removed by belladonna, while hyoscyamus proves its value when there is little or no congestion, but much excitement. So in the case of delirium: the forms of this disorder for which hyoscyamus is adapted are the milder and less inflammatory ones; whereas the severer cases are better dealt with by belladonna or stramonium. Hyoscyamus is specially useful again in those cases of delirium with hallucinations which are accompanied by little or no cerebral congestion, but where there is great excitability of the nervous system, and where there is reason to fear that the operation of opium would prove injurious. (Lawson (Practitioner, July, 1876) found hyoscyamia useful in the treatment of recurrent acute and subacute mania, monomania of suspicion, and the excitement of senile dementia, also in epileptic excitement. He gave it in doses of gr. 3/4- to 1 1/4, of Merck's amorphous hyoscyamin.)

Febricula. - Hyoscyamus is very useful in cases of febricula. The usual symptoms of this malady are dry, hot skin, hard and full pulse, headache, restlessness and irritability accompanied by sleeplessness, slight delirium, thirst, dry fevered tongue, constipation, and scanty and high-colored urine. The head symptoms are speedily relieved by hyoscyamus, and the tongue becomes moist under its influence; and if the exhibition of the medicine be continued, the constipation is removed and a daily laxative action takes its place. (Belladonna in many instances produces similar effects.)

Monomania. - In hypochondriacal monomania, when the patient suffers from such mental symptoms as syphiliphobia, when really he has no reason to think himself the subject of any venereal taint, hyoscyamus will relieve the distressing despondency, and in many instances remove the hallucination.

Sunstroke. - I have used hyoscyamus with decided success in cases of mild sunstroke or heat-stroke, where the patient has suffered more or less from faintness, vertigo, headache, a sense of tightness across the forehead and chest, a quick and full pulse, sleeplessness, and much nervous irritability. In the convulsions of children, when brought about by undue exposure to the heat of the sun, I believe hyoscyamus to be a more valuable remedy even than belladonna.

Sub-acute Meningitis. - Hyoscyamus is valuable again in sub acute meningitis, and in the recent and less acute delirium which accompanies typhus.

Delirium Tremens. - In some forms of delirium tremens it plays its part admirably.

Coughs. - Spasmodic throat-coughs of a tickling and irritating character, such as occur principally during the night, debarring the patient from sleep for many hours together, are quickly mitigated by hyoscyamus. It is very useful also in night-coughs which are incessant for a long period and which actually trouble the patient during slumber.

Palpitation. - Nervous palpitations of the heart of a spasmodic character; violent palpitations also, which depend upon an excited condition of the brain, are frequently removed by hyoscyamus.

Breasts painfully distended with milk are quickly relieved by a plaster of hyoscyamus, like that of belladonna, being laid upon them.

Cancer and Haemorrhoids. - So, in the form of cataplasm, the bruised leaves of the plant are often advantageously used, alike for the purpose last referred to and for cancers and scrofulous ulcers, as well as for haemorrhoids and other painful complaints.

Constipation. - When the bowels are confined and irritable, and when it becomes necessary to promote their secretion by the use of colo-cynth or some other drastic, hyoscyamus is usually prescribed in addition; since it prevents the griping action of the drastic, and yet does not diminish the general effect, or at least not to any important extent. Hyoscyamus, when used for any complaint whatever in which opium is ordinarily employed, is superior to that drug, in so far as it possesses little tendency to confine the bowels. Hyoscyamus in some cases produces unpleasant symptoms, and the sleep which supervenes upon the exhibition of it is sometimes uncertain, labored, and unrefreshing; hence, it is generally resorted to as a secondary medicine, rather than as one to which we may confidently apply at first for its anodyne and hypnotic effects.

Toothache. - The good effects of smoking the seeds after the manner of tobacco, in the treatment of toothache, resemble those of smoking stramonium seeds, and are well known, both in professional and in domestic medicine. The remedy is one, however, which must be resorted to with caution; since the smoking of these seeds has been followed, in certain cases, by convulsions and temporary insanity. I may here remark that the properties of the seeds of henbane appear to differ from those of the root and of the leaves, the narcotic qualities of the two last-named being supplemented by others of an irritant character. Persons who have swallowed them have more frequently suffered from convulsions, and have experienced greater heat and dryness of the throat and more burning of the stomach; their thirst and delirium have also been intensified.

This circumstance may perhaps account for the untoward effects which have occasionally followed the exhibition of the extract, the seeds being sometimes mingled with the leaves through want of care in the collecting; though this can only be the case when the collecting of the leaves has been too long delayed - i. e., until the flowering of the plant has long ceased.

Preparations and Dose. - Ext. Hyoscyami, gr. 1/5 - v. (.01 - .30); Ext. Hyoscyam. Fl., m v. - 3 ss. (.30 - 2.); Tinct. Hyoscyam., 3 ss. - 3 ij. (2. - 8.) Ten drops of liq. potassse destroys the action of 3 j. of the tincture of hyoscyamus, a blunder we have more than once seen committed in copaiva mixtures. The alkaloid hyoscyamia may be given in doses of gr 1/6 - j. (.01 - 06).