Processing Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) into canning jars for later use

It’s getting close to freezing temperatures, here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so I harvested my Black Henbane from the greenhouse.  I used Michael Moore’s ratio of 1 part fresh leaf to .5 part alcohol (prior to adding oil and then he gave it a hot oil bath until the alcohol evaporated.)  Henbane is a difficult plant to make into a salve or a tincture, as the fresh leaf dehydrates down to about 1/10th of its weight.  I know this from personal experience, because I kept records of my experiments.  Anyway, I did not want to have the Henbane aromatics off-gassing in the house in this cold weather, so I went for a recipe that would convert it from fresh to oil.  I ended up harvesting 3,000 grams of Henbane and using 1500 grams of 91% rubbing alcohol.  I chopped it up using an old blender from a secondhand store until it was a slurry.  Here’s a tidbit for those of you who will be making salves from fresh leaves – trim off the stems wherever possible, as I missed a few and they ended up packed around the blade at the base of the blender.  Otherwise, my inexpensive blender did the job just fine.

I have not figured out the strength or percentage to use yet, of Henbane to oil.  In the Eclectic’s literature from Henriette’s Herbal website,  – they have a salve and liniment that uses between 5 and 10 percent of Belladonna.  I may use that as my starting point later.  I’ll test it on myself before offering it to anybody else -does anybody want to try it later?

I know that with this much moisture in the leaves spoilage is likely (this stuff is like lettuce in consistency) so I decided to use jelly jars and process the Henbane into these small canning jars.  I used my most sensitive scale, and weighed out 150 grams into each jelly jar, before I put the jars into the water bath.  I also checked the length of time for boiling in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but they didn’t have a specific entry for Henbane.  A bit remiss, perhaps?  They recommended 10 minutes for juices with sugar, and since this doesn’t have sugar, I set my timer for 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, it took me longer than I thought to get all the jars filled and into the bath, so some were already hot before I set the timer.  I think some of the alcohol was escaping.  Remember, the contents weighed 150 grams before boiling, but none weighed 150 grams after boiling.  Can anybody help me with figuring out why?


Here are the jars after I lifted them from the water bath.  Notice the different heights of fluid?  And one obviously had a seal failure, as it is full to the top.  None of these jars weighed the same.  The weights ranged from 110.2 grams to 138.0 grams, excluding the broken seal jar.


Here is the scale I used.  It is precise enough to use for trade in jewelry and such.  Purchased from Amazon, the model is: “A&D ek1200i Legal for Trade Gold Scale”.

I am very glad that I purchased it.  Working with such baneful herbs, I really want this precision.  There are too many other variables as it is.  See that bubble on the back, by the cord plug?  That’s to level it.  It has little leveling feet underneath.


Scale is on, tared to zero.  Weight set for grams.  Ok, how do I rotate this picture?


One U.S. nickel weighs 5 grams.  This one weighs 5.1 grams.  That’s a way to tell that your scale is calibrated.


I have beeswax for my salve-making.  It’s in that small granule form, rather than blocks.  Here is one bead of beeswax, it weighs 1/10th of a gram.

Below are a few more, totaling 3/10ths of a gram.



I want to know how much liquid was lost from each jar, so I tared out an empty jar, lid and ring.


Now I can simply place the finished jar onto the scale and weigh it.  I don’t know how much fluid they lost or why.  It’s all a learning process, isn’t it?


The contents of this jar weigh 131.6 grams.


This one weighs 116.3 grams.  Originally, it weighed 150 grams.


This one didn’t seal, and it obviously took on water.  I’m thinking I’ll dump this one out.

I could smell the Henbane when I lifted the canning kettle lid.  Since I can see that this jar took on water, I think it’s safe to assume that the water in the kettle also has Henbane in it.  I took all the jars and placed them into the kitchen sink, and washed them all, very gently, with soap and water.  I wear gloves when I am handling this stuff, so if I don’t take the extra precaution of washing the jars (with contents intact), then later on, I will forget about the possibility of Henbane juice on the exterior and handle them with my bare hands.

I am struggling with figuring out what ratio of Henbane solution to use per amount of oil, it makes it even more difficult to test on myself if I already feel the effects just from handling the jars.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to why these jars lost volume?  Do you think it’s because I didn’t boil off the alcohol first, so it vaporized quickly in the water bath?

Whatever the reason may be, I think that I will write on each jar that it is the equivalent of the original 150 grams of Henbane.  I would have to boil off the liquids to make a salve, anyway…

What do you think?