Black Henbane - Users and Victims
The best known report of the effects of Black Henbane came from Gustav Schenk - author of ‘The Book of Poisons’. He decided to take an experimental dose of Black Henbane, roasting the seeds and inhaling the fumes they gave off.
His initial symptoms were of physical discomfort. He reported a feeling of extreme pain, and swelling in his head, dizziness, extreme dryness of the mouth, shaking limbs, disturbed eyesight, increased heart rate, flushed skin and huge dilated pupils. He also reported that his memory was effected, and at the time he struggled to understand why he was in such a condition.
“To comprehend the power of Black Henbane, the reader must picture the following condition. The ears become deaf, the eyes almost blind; they see in a haze only the bulk of objects, whose contours are blurred. The sufferer is slowly cut off from the outside world and sinks irretrievably into his own inner world.” Gustav Schenk, The Book of Poisons.
Staggering around, sweating profusely, he began to experience terrifying visions of impending doom and of horrifying, contorted creatures and beings. He described a flowing river of blood above him, and of being carried along with it, though in reality, he was barely moving. At this point he began to feel a sensation of his body coming apart and seperating and became terrified that he was going to die as a result. But at the same time, that fear was counterbalanced by a pleasant and enjoyable sense of flying amongst clouds and leaves.
“As the delusions come to an end they are replaced by the consciousness of pain and nausea. The grey misery that fills the mind is enhanced by the precarious state of the body and the derangement of the senses. Sight, hearing, smell and touch do not obey the will and seem, still entirely under the influence of the Henbane, to be going their own ways”. Gustav Schenk, The Book of Poisons.
Accidental poisoning from Black Henbane is rare, but there have been cases.
A 34 year old woman suffered horrific symptoms after drinking a Henbane tincture she wrongly believed to be draught. She quickly developed a dry throat and mouth, extreme thirst, weak and burning limbs, a purple rash around her neck and a swollen face. By the time 7 hours had passed she was delirious and unable to see, speak or move. Her condition began to improve after 28 hours, but it was six days before she regained use of her legs, and short term memory loss was permanent.
Similar symptoms were experienced by nine people who accidentally ate the roots in a soup. The mother had mistaken them for parsnips!
Way back in 1750, 7 people ate the leaves in a broth and as a result suffered delirium, slavering and hallucinations. All reported a sense of falling and impending doom and were unable to recognize their friends whilst under the influence of the Henbane.
A group of nine people who accidentally ate the roots suffered similar symptoms, and three of them reported that everything appeared scarlet in colour for several days after the other symptoms had passed.
In the middle ages, Henbane was widely used in Germany as a ingredient of beer, to augment the inebriating qualities. Its use was finally banned after many years, due to numerous cases of poisoning.
Shakespeare put a tincture of Black Henbane in the hand Hamlet’s murderer.
I, in no way, encourage or support the use of Black Henbane, for any purpose. This information is intended for your interest only.