Hyoscyamus niger seeds - Black Henbane wiccan herb seeds
Hysocyamus niger belongs to the family of the Solanaceae, the nightshades. H. niger is native in whole Europe and Asia. It grows mainly in underused areas, on rubbish dumps and at the edge of gravel paths. H. niger is also known as black henbane or stinking nightshade, because the flower has a very unpleasant odor.
H. niger is a annual (in flowers after the second year and dies afterward), herbaceous plant. It reaches a height of about 20 to 80 cm; rarely does it get up to 170 cm high. The shoot and the leaves are pubescent. The leaves are longish ovate and dentate at the edge. The leaves at the bottom grow around the shoot; the leaves at the top have short petioles. They alternate at the shoot.
The flower is yellow or ocher and violet in the center. The whole flower has a violet venation that comes from the center. The flower reaches 2 to 3 cm in diameter and is made up of 5 flower leaves. H. niger is probably pollinated by bumblebees but also by flies. The flies like the violet center and the unpleasant odor of the flower and are though attracted. The fruit is a capsule that opens at the top. One capsule contains about 400 seeds. The calyx gets bigger when the fruit is ripe because of that the wind has more contact surface and the seeds can be better distributed. The seeds of Hyoscyamus niger are black. The Henbane seeds are beside the root the most poisonous parts of the plant. Nevertheless one should not forget that the whole plant is highly poisonous! One should definitely keep them away from kids. H. niger contains Atropine and Scopolamine but also some other alkaloids.
In former times an extract of Black Henbane was mixed into the beer to strengthen the effect of the alcohol. In history books one can read that the town Pilsen in the Czech Republic was known for the cultivation of H. niger that they mixed into the famous Pilsen beer. But then the purity requirements were introduced and one began to understand that there is just a small border between the exhilarating effect and the toxic, deadly dose. So the mixing of Henbane with beer was forbidden.
The several alkaloids that H. niger contains release the so called anticholinergic syndrome. That means that the venomed person gets red, dry skin and the mouth gets also dry. The person has hallucinations and arrhythmia. In the end one dies because of the paralysis of the respiratory tract.
H. niger was in former times a part of the salve of the witches. When they used this salve they believed they can fly. When they told this to other persons they were burnt.
But as always it just the dose that makes a substance poisonous and so Hyoscyamus niger is also used in medicine. It is mainly used for patients with asthma, chronically bronchitis, sessile nervous cough and cramps. But one should not make medicine out of the plant on its own. Different individuals of the species can have very different percentages of alkaloids and so it is difficult to say if one takes the right dose. The deadly dose is anyway not high.
Cultivation from seed
it's seed coat is really thick what sometimes can cause problems and the seeds additionally need a stratification first, meaning that they have to be treated with cold for several weeks what can be done by putting them into the fridge for at least 6 weeks, then let the seeds soak in water for about 20h and then the seeds of Henbane should be put on the substrate and slightly pressed on it. The substrate should be rich in nitrogen. At a temperature of about 20°C and constant moisture, germination occurs fast.
It is important that seeds are not covered completely with soil because they need light to germinate!
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