Black henbane is an excellent pain reliever for sore muscles and joints, stiffness, bruising, and other injuries that have not broken the skin. The ointment can be rubbed on the abdomen for menstrual cramping or used similarly for muscle cramps. Wherever it grows in the wild the local people use it in salves to treat the pain and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism. It is also a traditional remedy to prevent motion sickness. Try using the ointment two hours before you travel.
Though henbane has the same properties as belladonna, datura, and mandrake, it is less intense in its side effects. Henbane is a sedative and nervine relaxant and has the ability to calm the nerves, reduce physical and psychological tension, and directly affect the nervous system to induce sleep when a larger amount of ointment is used. In Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, written 2000 years ago, he lists henbane ointment as being very effective for treating anxiety and frayed nerves and patrons have found this to be true in practice.
Made with black henbane (hyoscyamus niger), wild harvested poplar buds (populus balsamifera), sunflower oil (helianthus annuus), and beeswax.
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Wherever henbane grows, it has a long history of magico-religious use across cultures, borders, and different religions. It has been in use as a medicine and sacred herb since the times of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and is still used in regional folk medicine today. There are a dozen different henbane species that grow in different areas, but the black henbane used in this ointment is most well known for its veneration by the ancient and pagan Norsemen who grew it as a crop for medicine, beer, and magical ceremonies of communing with deities and ancestors. Black henbane seed has been found in multiple Scandinavian burial excavations with the graves turning out to belong to high status priestesses who are sometimes conflated with witches due to their ancestral and divinatory practices (plus they had wands).
From the Middle Ages onward, henbane can be found in magical recipes for seeing and talking to the dead in grimoires written by the likes of Agrippa, Honorius, and Giambattista della Porta. During this period henbane became one of the classic “witch” herbs and was believed to be used by witches for poisoning people, for their flying ointments, and drunk a brew of henbane at their witches’ sabbaths. Shakespeare used it as a plot device in his plays, and many British Isles and European hangmen had gardens of it growing next to jails to drug condemned prisoners, not to kill them, but to calm them before they were hanged.
Like other poisonous nightshades, black henbane is associated with the underworld, graveyards, the dead, necromancy, divination, and witchcraft, but despite these dark associations many ancient cultures also believed henbane can bring humans closer to divinity and lend us the powers of the gods like prophecy, far-sight, truth-telling, and a litany of other supernatural abilities. In ancient Greece it was was sacred to Hekate but even more so to Apollo and is believed to be one of the substances responsible for the oracles’ visions. Apollo was god of prophecy, healing, the arts, justice, fire, and the sun. Henbane was used in ancient rites of initiation into adulthood and priesthood. It definitely has a stronger connection to the sun and sun medicine whereas the other poisonous nightshades are much more Saturnian and lunar.