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a type of mainly biennial and annual grassy plants of the nightshade family (Solanaceae). There are some 20 species in Europe, Asia and Africa (outside the central portion) and on the Canary Islands. In the USSR there are eight species of which the most important is black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), a biennial that grows abundantly in empty lots, along roads, and sometimes as a weed in fields.
In the first year, only a rosette of root leaves develops, and in the second, a foliated, floriferous stalk, 20–115 cm high. The whole plant is softly furred, sticky, with an unpleasant odor. The crown is dirty yellow with violet veins. The fruit is a bilocular, ascidiform pod.
The fruit is prepared as a medicinal raw material in the Ukraine, in the Voronezh Oblast, in the Middle Volga region, and other regions. It has been put under cultivation. Several species of the related genus Physochlaina (puzyrnitsa), also called henbane, are found in the USSR. Siberian henbane (Physochlaina physaloides) is a perennial that grows on the stony steppe slopes of Western and Eastern Siberia, in the Far East, Middle Asia, Northern Mongolia, Northern China, and Japan. Its roots and leaves contain up to 0.25 percent alkaloids. The plants and seeds of all species of Hyoscyamus are very poisonous; they contain the alkaloids hyoscyamine, atropine, and scopalamine.
Extracts of henbane leaves (as powders or pills) are used for medical purposes as antispasmodics and analgesics in some diseases of the digestive tract and of the respiratory tract. Ground henbane leaves enter into the composition of Astmatol. Henbane oil, which is used for rubbing in as an analgesic in contusions and sciatica, for instance, is obtained from the henbane plant. Henbane poisoning is characterized by severe excitation, dilatation of the pupils, hallucinations, and delirium; death is possible. First aid in poisoning calls for irrigation of the stomach with a suspension of activated carbon and a potassium permanganate solution, then saline laxatives, and strong tea and coffee.