Stachys officinalis –Wood Betony
Family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae
Other names: Betony, Bishopswort, Stachys Betonica, Lousewort, Stachys officinalis,S. betonica. Benth, Betonica officinalis
Names: Bishopswort, Betony, Stachys betonica.
Habitat: Europe including Britain, in open woods, hedge banks, grasslands and heaths.
Wood betony was at one time commonly used as a medicinal herb in the treatment of a wide range of disorders, especially as a nervine and tonic for treating maladies of the head and as an external application to wounds. It also stimulates the digestive system and the liver, having an overall tonic effect upon the body. Wood betony is much less used nowadays, and more often forms part of a mixture of herbs. The whole plant is collected when in flower in the summer and can be dried for later use. It is anthelmintic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, mildly cathartic, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, mildly emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, nervine, sedative, sternutatory, tonic and vulnerary. It is taken in the treatment of ‘frayed nerves’, pre-menstrual complaints, poor memory and tension. It can be taken in combination with herbs such as comfrey, Symphytum officinale, and lime flowers, Tilia species, to treat sinus headaches and congestion. Wood betony can be taken on its own, or with yarrow, Achillea millefolium, to staunch nosebleeds. A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing and it has been used as part of a herbal snuff mixture in the treatment of headaches. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant. It is used in the treatment of asthma and excessive perspiration.
Description of Wood Betony:
Stachys officinalis, Wood Betony is a growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers well-drained soil.
How to Grow Wood Betony:
Prefers a light moist neutral to acid soil in sun or light shade. A characteristic plant of healthy roadside banks on heavy soils. Hardy to at least -25°c. At one time bugle was often cultivated for its medicinal virtues, though it is now little used. There are some named varieties selected for their ornamental value. An excellent bee plant.
Propagation of Wood Betony:
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Very easy, the plant can be successfully divided at almost any time of the year. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.
Collection: The aerial parts should be dried carefully in the sun.
Culinary uses of Wood Betony:
Edible Uses: Tea.
The leaves and flowering tops make a good tea substitute. Refreshing and aromatic, it has all the good qualities of tea without the negative ones.
Actions: Nervine, bitter.
Part Used: Dried aerial parts.
Indications: Betony gently tones and strengthens the nervous system whilst also has a relaxing action. If finds used in nervous debility associated with anxiety and tension. It will ease headaches and neuralgia when they are of nervous origin, but especially those caused by hypertension.
Combinations: For the treatment of nervous headache it combines well with Skullcap. In hypertensive headaches use in combination with appropriate hypotensives.
Preparations & Dosage:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 2-6 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Other uses of Wood Betony:
A fine yellow dye is obtained from the leaves
Magickal uses include purification, protection, and the expulsion of evil spirits, nightmares, and despair. Excellent for magickal healing and protecting against dark fears of the emotions & imagination. A good addition to dream pillows. Carry in an amulet to draw love and strengthen the body. Burn to banish disharmony in a relationship. Pass through the smoke of burning wood betony at Midsummer to purify the body of ills and evils. Burn with any uncrossing incense to defeat witchcraft.
- Alkaloids; stachydrine and betonicine
- Miscellaneous; betaine, choline, tannins.