Betony The Healing Herb: health article by Judi Singleton

Stachys officinalis common names: Betony, Synonyms and Common names: Betonica officinalis, Stachys officinalis, Bishopswort, lousewort, purple betony Evergreen Perennial Ht: 2' - 3' Wood Betony is a hardy perennial that likes full sun to partial shade, and is usually self-sowing once established.Native to Europe, wood betony is now planted in many parts of the world with temperate climates. The primary portions of the plant that are used as medicine are the leaves and flowers, though historically the root has also been used. There are many similar species originating from Eurasia, including Stachys sieboldii (Chinese artichoke, kan lu) and S. atherocalyx (hedge nettle).

Betony is used as a substitute for black tea. The infusion resembles the taste of black tea and is caffeine-free. It helps relieve headache.

This is a wonderful flowering perennial it blooms in the spring with lavender-pink spikes.

There are five species of Stachys growing wild in this country - the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the Marsh Stachys, or Clown's Woundwort (S. palustris); the true Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica), perhaps the commonest of them all. Augustus, wrote a long treatise, showing it was a certain cure for no less than fortyseven diseases.

Throughout the centuries, faith in its virtues as a panacea for all ills was thoroughly ingrained in the popular estimation. It was largely cultivated in the physic gardens, both of the apothecaries and the monasteries, and may still be found growing about the sites of these ancient buildings. Robert Turner, a physician writing in the latter half of the seventeenth century, recounts nearly thirty complaints for which Betony was considered efficacious, and adds, 'I shall conclude with the words I have found in an old manuscript under the virtues of it: "More than all this have been proved of Betony." ' In addition to its medicinal virtues, Betony was endowed with power against evil spirits. On this account, it was carefully planted in churchyards and hung about the neck as an amulet or charm, sanctifying, as Erasmus tells us, 'those that carried it about them,' and being also 'good against fearful visions' and an efficacious means of 'driving away devils and despair.' An old writer, Apelius, says: 'It is good whether for the man's soul or for his body; it shields him against visions and dreams, and the wort is very wholesome, and thus thou shalt gather it, in the month of August without the use of iron; and when thou hast gathered it, shake the mold till nought of it cleave thereon, and then dry it in the shade very thoroughly, and with its root altogether reduce it to dust: then use it and take of it when thou needst.' Many extravagant superstitions grew up round Betony, one, of very ancient date, was that serpents would fight and kill each other if placed within a ring composed of it; and others declared that even wild beasts recognized its efficacy and used it if wounded, and that stags, if wounded with a dart, would search out Betony, and, eating it, be cured. The active constituents of wood betony have not been clearly identified. The tannins, alkaloids, glycosides, and volatile oil found in this plant and its cousins may all contribute to its activity. Almost no research has been conducted on wood betony. Some Russian research in humans apparently suggests it may promote lactation, though the details of these studies are not readily available.

One of the stories that have grown up around it are that it helps clarify deeper meanings of relationship, friendship and sexuality; For those who prefer to be alone but are working on authentic ways to connect with others.

Wood betony has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information): Rating Health, Shingles, Sinusitis Stress,Concerns,Anxiety,Gastritis.

Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit. Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit. An herb is primarily supported by traditional use, or the herb or supplement has little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Wood betony was used in European folk herbalism as a remedy for respiratory tract inflammation, heartburn, urinary tract inflammation, varicose veins, intestinal worm infestations, and failure to thrive.1

It was considered a calming remedy and was used for headaches as well as some forms of neuralgia, including shingles. The active constituents of wood betony have not been clearly identified. The tannins, alkaloids, glycosides, and volatile oil found in this plant and its cousins may all contribute to its activity.

Almost no research has been conducted on wood betony. Some Russian research in humans apparently suggests it may promote lactation, though the details of these studies are not readily available.

How much is usually taken? A tea of wood betony can be made by steeping 1 to 2 tsp dried leaf and flower in a cup of water for 15 minutes. One or two cups of this tea can be drunk per day. Though generally better between meals, it can be taken with food for convenience or if there is any gastrointestinal upset.

Are there any side effects or interactions? There are no known adverse effects from use of wood betony other than occasional mild gastrointestinal upset. Its safety in pregnancy and breast-feeding is generally unknown, though as noted above it has been studied in Russia as a way to increase lactation. References 1. Lust J. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974:116.

2. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine.

Middlesex, UK: Viking Arkana, 1991:576.

3. Stegailo EA, Lebedeva IM, Aronova BN, et al. Treatment of

hypogalactia with an extract of the betonica hedge nettle. Akush

Ginekol (Mosk) 1980;(2):19?20 [in Russian].

4. Bakhalova NV, Kharmats DA. Effect of the milk from mothers receiving

methylergometrine and hedge nettle extract on the physical development

of the newborn infant. Zdravookhr Kirg 1977;(2):28?31 [in Russian].

5. Lust J. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974:116.

About the author: About the author: Judi Singleton is the publisher of Jassmine's Journal and you can subscribe to any of her lists at http://www.motherearthpublishing.com

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