Solanaceae: An annual or biennial to 50cm, sometimes forming a rosette the first year. Found in fields, waste ground, near buildings and in stony places from low-lying ground near the sea to lower mountain slopes. Flowers are pale yellow with deep purple veins and throats and are borne on spikes, and have a strong, unpleasant smell. Blooming from May – September. Leaves are alternate, large up to 15cm wide and 20cm or longer and have a heavy, foul scent. Leaf edges are shallowly lobed. The entire plant is covered with greasy hairs and has a thick, fleshy taproot. Native to much of Europe, including Britain, south and east to North Africa and Western Asia.
Henbane has a very long history of use as a medicinal herb and has been widely cultivated to meet the demand for its use. It is used extensively as a sedative and pain killer and is specifically used for pain affecting the urinary tract, especially when due to kidney stones. Its sedative and antispasmodic effect makes it a valuable treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, relieving tremor and rigidity during the early stages of the disease. This species is the form generally considered best for external use, whilst the white henbane (H. albus) is considered the most appropriate for internal use. All parts of the plant, but especially the leaves and the seeds, can be used - they have anodyne, antispasmodic, mildly diuretic, hallucinogenic, hypnotic, mydriatic, narcotic and sedative properties.
Surface sow seeds in late summer or early spring. These seeds germinate rapidly depending on species and origin. If germination does not occur after 3–4 weeks a cooling period of 2–4 weeks is recommended. GA3 hormone or gibberellic acid can help with germination. Plant out before plants start to flower, any later and you will stunt their growth. Prefers a sunny position and an alkaline soil. But should succeed in ordinary garden soil.