Hyoscyamus. U. S. (Br.) Hyoscyamus. Hyosc. [Henbane, Hyoscyami Folium P. I.]
"The dried leaves or fruiting tops of Hyoscyamus niger Linne (Fam. Solanaceae), yielding not less than 0.065 per cent. of the alkaloids of Hyoscyamus." U. S. "Hyoscyamus Leaves are the leaves of Hyoscyamus niger, Linn., collected from the flowering plants, and dried." Br.
Hyoscyami Folia, Br.; Hyoscyamus Leaves, Henbane Leaves, Black Henbane; Stinking Nightshade, Insane Root, Poison Tobacco; Jusquiame noire, Fr. Cod.; Belene, Chenile, Fr.; Herba Hyoscyami, P. G.; Bilsenkraut, Bilsenkraut-blätter, G; Giusquiamo, It.; Beleno, Sp.
There are about eleven species of the genus Hyoscyamus known; these are distributed from the Canary Islands over Europe and Northern Africa to Asia.
Hyoscyamus niger, or henbane, is usually a biennial plant, with a long, tapering, whitish, fleshy, somewhat branching root, not unlike that of parsley, for which it has been eaten by mistake, with poisonous effects. The stem, which rises in the second year, is erect, branching, from one to four feet high, and thickly furnished with leaves. These are large, oblong-ovate, deeply sinuated with pointed segments, undulated, soft to the touch, and at their base embrace the stem. The upper leaves are generally entire. Both the stem and leaves are hairy, viscid, and of a sea-green color. The flowers form long, one-sided, leafy spikes, which terminate the branches, and hang downward. They are composed of a calyx with five pointed divisions, a funnel-shaped corolla, with five unequal, obtuse segments at the border, five stamens inserted into the tube of the corolla, and a pistil with a blunt, round stigma. The corolla is of an obscure yellow color, beautifully variegated with purple veins. The fruit is a globular two-celled capsule, covered with a lid, invested with the persistent calyx, and contains numerous small seeds, which are discharged by the horizontal separation of the lid. The whole plant has a rank, offensive odor.
H. niger is susceptible of considerable diversity of character, causing varieties which have by some been considered as distinct species. Thus, the plant is sometimes annual, the stem simple, smaller, and less downy than in the biennial plant, the leaves shorter and less hairy and viscid, and the flowers often yellow without the purple streaks.
The plant is found in the northern and eastern sections of the United States, occupying waste grounds in the older settlements, particularly cemeteries, old gardens, and the foundations of ruined houses. It is, not, however, a native of this country, having been introduced from Europe. In Great Britain, and on the continent of Europe, it grows abundantly along the roads, around villages, amidst rubbish, and in uncultivated places. Both varieties were formerly cultivated in England, but at present the biennial is chiefly or solely grown. The annual plant flowers in July or August, the biennial in May or June. For an account of the cultivation of the biennial variety of Hitchin, England, see P. J., Feb., 1860.
Mitlacher, in connection with other plants, has carried on a series of experiments on the cultivation of Hyoscyamus and reports on the results of his work in Ph. Post, 1911, p. 390 and Zeit. Oest. Apoth. Ver., 1912, p. 401. Hyoscyamus has been successfully grown in the testing gardens of the Bureau of Plant Industry. There is usually some difficulty in growing hyoscyamus owing to its destruction by insects (A. J. P., 1912, p. 551), but Newcomb was very successful with his experiments in Minneapolis. (A. J. P., 1914, p. 531.) Schneider also has pointed out that henbane thrives well in California and says that it no doubt will do well in the Coast valleys. (Pac. Pharm., iii, p. 192.) Peckolt reports that Hyoscyamus niger grows wild in portions of Brazil. (B. P. G; xix, p. 33.) Chevalier has shown that by cultivation the alkaloidal content of hyoscyamus can be increased to 0.286 per cent. of total alkaloids. (C. R. A. S., 1910, p. 344.)
H. albus, so named from the whiteness of its flowers, is used in France indiscriminately with the former species, with which it appears to be identical in medicinal properties. Hyoscyamus muticus L., of Egypt, is said to grow luxuriantly in the temperate zone and to produce a very much larger proportion of total alkaloids than does the official English plant, although the relative proportions of hyoscine and hyoscyamine are not the same. It appeared in the London market in the form of broken stalks with a few capsular fruits and traces of leaves and may become an important source of the alkaloids to the manufacturers.
Properties.—All parts of Hyoscyamus niger are active. The official description of the plant is as follows: "Usually much wrinkled, with numerous stems and with the flowering or fruiting tops intermixed; leaves when entire attaining a length of 25 cm., a breadth of 10 cm., ovate or ovate-oblong, very inequilateral, the lower with short petioles, the upper sessile, summits acute, margins coarsely and angularly 1-to 4-toothed or lobed; grayish-green, glandular-hairy, particularly on the lower surfaces; flowers nearly sessile with an urn-shaped, unequally 5-toothed calyx and a campanulate corolla which in the fresh state is of a yellowish color; fruit a 2-locular pyxis, and enclosed in a large urn-shaped calyx with 5 acute teeth; odor heavy, distinctive; taste somewhat bitter and acrid. Stems from 3 to 10 cm. in length and from 2 to 5 mm. in thickness, nearly cylindrical or somewhat compressed, longitudinally wrinkled and hairy. The powder is grayish-green; under the microscope, it exhibits calcium oxalate crystals usually in the form of 4- to 6-sided, isolated prisms, sometimes in twins, from 0.015 to 0.025 mm. in length, also occurring in spherical aggregates either isolated or attached to the prismatic crystals, sometimes in rosette aggregates, 0.02 mm. in diameter, and occasionally in sphenoidal micro-crystals; hairs numerous, of two kinds; the non-glandular from 2 to 10 cells in length, the glandular with a 1- to many-celled head and a 1- to 4-celled stalk; fragments of epidermis with broadly elliptical stomata from 0.03 to 0.035 mm. in length and with 3 to 4 neighboring cells; fragments of trachea? with simple or bordered pores and spiral or reticulate thickenings, also associated with sclerenchymatous fibers having thin porous walls and showing little or no lignification; pollen grains, nearly smooth and from 0.035 to 0.05 mm. in diameter. The presence of the leaves of Hyoscyamus muticus Linne in either the crude or powdered Hyoscyamus may be determined by the characteristic, branching, non-glandular hairs occurring on both the stems and leaves of that species. Hyoscyamus yields not more than 30 per cent. of ash." U. S.
"Pale green, varying in length but seldom exceeding twenty-five centimetres; mostly sessile; exstipulate, triangular-ovate or ovate-oblong, acute, undulated, irregularly toothed, sinuate or pinnatifid, with conspicuous midrib. On both surfaces, but particularly on the under surface and near the veins, long uniserial hairs terminating in pluricellular glands. In the mesophyll prismatic and cluster-crystals of calcium oxalate." Br.
Much of the efficacy of hyoscyamus depends upon the time at which it is gathered. The leaves should be collected soon after the plant has flowered. In the biennial plant, those of the second year are preferred to those of the first. The latter, according to Houlton, are less clammy and fetid, yield less extractive, and are medicinally much less efficient. It is said that the plant is sometimes destroyed by severe winters in England, and that no leaves of the second year's growth are then obtainable. This is, perhaps, one of the causes of the great uncertainty of the medicine as found in commerce. The root also is said to be much more poisonous in the second year than in the first.
"Assay.—Introduce 30 Gm. of Hyoscyamus, in No. 60 powder, into a 500 mil flask and add 300 mils of a mixture of 1 volume of chloroform and 2 volumes of ether. Stopper the flask, shake it well, and allow it to stand for ten minutes; then add 5 mils of ammonia water and shake the flask vigorously every ten minutes during two hours. Now add 40 mils of distilled water, again shake the flask and when the drug has settled decant 200 mils of the solution, representing 20 Gm. of Hyoscyamus, and proceed as directed under Belladonna Radix, beginning with the word 'Filter' on twelfth line of the Assay. Before titration treat the residue twice with 5 mils of ether and evaporate to dryness each time. Each mil of tenth-normal sulphuric acid V.S. consumed corresponds to 28.92 milligrammes of the total alkaloids of Hyoscyamus." U. S. IX.
The recent leaves have, when bruised, a strong, disagreeable, narcotic odor, somewhat like that of tobacco. Their taste is mucilaginous and very slightly acrid. When dried, they have little odor or taste. Thrown upon the fire, they burn with a crackling noise, as if they contained a nitrate, and at the same time emit a strong odor.
Much of the henbane of commerce is taken from the plant in the first year of its growth. The drug of the market is very variable, frequently containing an excess of sand and the leaves of other species of hyoscyamus. A few years ago, it was admixed with H. muticus, a plant growing in Egypt. The latter is readily determined by the presence of characteristic branching non-glandular hairs which are found on both the stems and leaves. (See A. J. P., 1908, p. 361 and Kraemer's "Scientific and Applied Pharmacognosy.")
Hyoscyamus is completely extracted by diluted alcohol. The aqueous infusion is of a pale-yellow color, insipid, with the narcotic odor of the plant. The leaves were analyzed by Lindbergsen, who obtained from them a narcotic principle. They contain a large proportion of potassium nitrate, F. Mahia having obtained, as nearly as he could estimate from his experiments, 2 per cent. of that salt. (A. J. P., 1859, p. 402.) The seeds are very small, roundish, compressed, somewhat kidney-shaped, a little wrinkled, of a gray or yellowish-gray color, of the odor of the plant, and of an oleaginous, bitterish taste. Geiger and Hesse (1833) were the first to demonstrate the existence of an alkaloid in hyoscyamus. Ladenburg stated in 1880 that there are two alkaloids in the plant,—one crystallizable, hyoscyamine, and the other amorphous, hyoscine (scopolamine). Hohn (Ann. Ch. Ph., 157, 98) obtained from the seeds a bitter principle which proved to be a glucoside. He calls it hyoscypicrin, and gives it the formula C27H52O14.
From experiments made by Hirtz upon the relative medicinal power of extracts from the seeds and from the leaves, he inferred that the former had ten times the strength of the latter. Henbane leaves yield, by destructive distillation, a very poisonous empyreumatic oil.
Uses.—Hyoscyamus combines the therapeutic actions of its two alkaloids, hyoscyamine and scopolamine. Because of the presence of the former it tends to check secretion and to relax spasm of the involuntary muscles, while through the narcotic effects of its scopolamine it lessens pain and exercises a slight somnifacient action. Its most important use is in relief of painful spasmodic affections of the unstriped muscle, as in lead colic and irritable bladder. It is also employed to allay nervous irritation, as in various forms of hysteria or irritable cough, but is inferior to scopolamine for these purposes. Externally cataplasms or fomentations of the fresh leaves have been employed to allay pain in cancerous ulcers and hemorrhoids, but its employment for this purpose is of doubtful advantage.
Hyoscyamus is preferably given in the form of the fluidextract or tincture. The inspissated juice of the fresh leaves (Extractum hyoscyami viride, Br.) is exceedingly variable in its operation and is not to be recommended.
Dose, of the leaves, two to five grains (0.13-0.32 Gm.).
Off. Prep.—Extractum Hyoscyami, U. S., Br.; Fluidextractum Hyoscyami, U. S.; Pilula Colocynthidis et Hyoscyami (from extract), Br.; Tinctura Hyoscyami, U. S., Br.; Pilulae Catharticae Vegetabiles (from Extract), N. F.; Pilulae Colocynthidis et Hyoscyami (from Extract), N. F.; Pilulae Laxativae Post Partum (from Extract), N. F.