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Plant (Hyoscyamus niger) of the nightshade family, native to Britain and found growing wild in poor soil and on rubbish heaps. It also occurs in central and southern Europe and from western Asia to India and Siberia and has long been naturalized in the U.S. The whole plant has a powerful nauseating odour. Commercial henbane, which consists of the dried leaves of H. niger and sometimes of H. muticus, of Egypt, yields three drugs: atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. Isolated and purified, these drugs are remedies for spasmodic muscular contractions, nervous irritation, and hysteria.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on henbane, visit Britannica.com.