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Discover the black henbane, the secret behind the warlike rage of the Vikings


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James St. John / Creative Commons

When we speak of the Vikings, we think of the Berserkers who designate warriors-beasts who fought with the Vikings. Thus, to be extremely violent, they took a plant that made them enraged to accomplish unimaginable feats.

The cause of the berserkergang is not unanimous

In fact, in the 13th century, the state of extreme violence or blind rage of the Berserkers of ” berserkergang “. This phenomenon of ” berserkergang Usually manifested as tremors, chattering of teeth, flushing of the face, convulsions and deafening howls. The Vikings and the Berserkers made their enemies, even their friends, tremble; since they could not tell the difference between the two during the fighting. There was something to be afraid of, since the Berserkers could kill all at once.

Some say that their extreme violence is due to the swallowing of a mushroom with psychoactive properties called “fly agaric” or “henbane” or “ Amanita muscaria Which was one of the weeds at the time.

However, Karsten Fatur, an ethnobotanist from Ljubljana in Slovenia, refutes this thesis in a article from Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Indeed, according to him, many are the effects caused by this fungus such as tremors, redness in the face as well as convulsions. However, the main effect which is blind rabies does not come from said fungus.

Consumption of the plant, its positive and negative effects

Based on research by Karsten fatur, this extreme violence is probably due to the consumption of aconite, more precisely black henbane. Indeed, the latter can cause rabies and various angry behaviors in the one who swallows it. This plant has been used since ancient Greece: as a sleeping pill, anesthetic, analgesic, but also as a narcotic.

Thus, the analgesic and anesthetic effects of black henbane explain the fact that Berserkers feel almost no pain as a result of fierce fighting. Also, the fact that Berserkers did not lose much blood even when hit by blades is due to the low blood pressure caused by black henbane.

However, there are negative effects of consuming this herb as well, long after the fighting has ceased. Indeed, its narcotic effect caused headaches, blurry visions and dilated pupils. The consumption of this plant was therefore beneficial, but it undoubtedly caused the death of allied warriors because they could no longer distinguish between enemies and allies.


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