hen·​bane ˈhen-ˌbān How to pronounce henbane (audio)
: a poisonous fetid Eurasian herb (Hyoscyamus niger) of the nightshade family with yellowish-brown flowers and sticky hairy leaves that yield hyoscyamine and scopolamine

Examples of henbane in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Ancient scholars like Pliny the Elder wrote about black henbane’s use as a treatment for fever, cough and pain. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Feb. 2024 At the Houten-Castellum site, archaeologists found traces of black henbane, but only two of them appeared to be intentional, according to researchers. Moira Ritter, Miami Herald, 8 Feb. 2024 The results provided direct evidence of the consumption of psychoactive compounds produced by a variety of nightshade plants – mandrake, henbane and joint pine, in this case. Gary Laderman, Fortune Well, 17 July 2023 But during the Bronze Age, European shamans would have had to use the plants available to them, the study suggests, including such nightshades as mandrake, henbane, thorn apple and joint pine. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 13 Apr. 2023 Our Bronze Age ancestors likely consumed those compounds by eating certain plants, including mandrake, henbane, horn apple and joint pine. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Apr. 2023 Atropine and scopolamine, powerful hallucinogens, can be found in plants in the nightshade family, among them mandrake, henbane and thorn apple. Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, 6 Apr. 2023 In the sequence, the young prince (played by Oscar Hovak), Aurvandill, and Heimir inhale the smoke of henbane seeds, a Viking-era hallucinogen, and bellow fragments of the Hávamál, the sayings of Odin, while Heimir sports a mask and a rattle painstakingly re-created from archeological discoveries. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 Fatur cites several cases involving angry behavior associated with plants related to henbane, containing the same alkaloids. Jennifer Ouellette, Wired, 21 Sep. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'henbane.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of henbane was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near henbane

Cite this Entry

“Henbane.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/henbane. Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Medical Definition


hen·​bane ˈhen-ˌbān How to pronounce henbane (audio)
: a poisonous fetid Old World herb of the genus Hyoscyamus (H. niger) that has sticky hairy dentate leaves and yellowish brown flowers, contains the alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine, and is the source of hyoscyamus

called also black henbane, insane root

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