Hen-Bane, or Hyoscyamus, L. a genus of plants comprising nine, species, one of which is a native of Britain, namely, the niger, orCom-mon Hen-bane. It abounds in villages, road-sides, and among rubbish ; and flowers in the month of July. Neither horses, cows, swine, nor sheep, will touch this plant, though the animals last mentioned are supposed to eat it when young : - it is not relished by goats.
The seeds, leaves, and roots of the common hen-bane, taken internally, are reputed to be poison-ous ; and numerous instances have been recorded of their virulent ef-fects. The general consequences of eating them are, convulsions, madness', and death; though Dr. Smith states that he has eaten the seeds with impunity. The leaves, if scattered about a house, are said to drive 3way mice and rats : when bruised, they emit an odour resembling that of tobacco, and are so powerfully narcotic, that their exhalation occasions the head-ach and giddiness. The whole plant is fatal to poultry ; it intoxicates hogs ; but cows, horses, dogs, and goats, are able to bear a tolerable portion before they are affected.— In superstitious ages, the famous sorcerers ointment was prepared from the leaves of the hen-bane, which produced a kind of delirious trance, or furious inspiration, on those who were anointed with this poisonous salve. Malignant persons, even in modern times, appear to be well acquainted with the properties and effects of the hen-bane: and the iniquities lately practised in a village near Newport, Salop, with a preparation of this powerful plant, almost exceed belief; especially as they were directed by one branch of a numerous family against another, not even except-ing infants. When suspicions arose against those miscreants who were guilty of secretly mixing this baneful vegetable with ale and beer, they had the inhuman audacity to introduce the poison between the soles of the shoes; and after these were secured, between the seams of shirts that were suspended on the hedge. - We have mentioned these flagrant instances of depravity, in order to caution the credulous reader, and to shew that the extraordinary effects of this poisonous application arisefrom natural causes, and ought not to be ascribed to witchcraft, as was unfortunately the case in Shropshire, till the whole mystery was satisfactorily explained. The writer of this article, having contributed to detect the delusion, thinks it his duty to warn the public against certain grave and whimsical matrons, as well as old men lurking about country places, who, under the pretence of fortune-telling, and amusing the harmless listeners with spell-craft, cunningly enter into the secret history of different families, avail themselves of the most powerful herbs, and thus become subservient to the most nefarious purposes.
Notwithstanding these virulent properties, the hen-bane has lately been employed with considerable success in the most obstinate diseases, such as epilepsy, internal spasms, madness and melancholy ; though we trust that no circumspect person will ever resort to its use, without consulting a medical friend. —If, however, any small portion of the leaves should have been accidentally swallowed, brisk emetics ought to be instantly taken ; and, after discharging the contents of the stomach, it will be necessary to administer emollient and oily clysters, to repeat them as often as they are ejected, and to drink as large portions of vinegar or juice of lemons diluted with water, as the stomach is able to support.
In recent cases, where the poi-sonous ointment of hen-bane has been absorbed by the skin, mild sudorifics, joined with mercurial frictions, will then be very proper; in order to excite a slight salivation, and expel the virus ; but, if some time alter the accident has elapsed, and the patient become delirious, paralytic, consumptive, or blind, recourse must be had to professional advice.