Botanical: Betonica officinalis (also known as Stachys officinalis)
Family: Lamiaceae-Labiatae (mint)
Other common names: Betony*, Betonica, Bishopswort, Purple Betony
Wood Betony is an old folk remedy that is said to be unsurpassed for easing headaches, especially those related to nervous tension, anxiety and debility. It also helps to facilitate digestion, relieve gastritis, heartburn and gas. Wood Betony is known as a blood purifier that is believed to improve liver, gallbladder and spleen health. Considered an herbal sedative, Wood Betony may also induce relaxation and sleep.
"Sell your coat, and buy Betony." - old Italian proverb
*Note: Wood Betony should not be confused with another species, Pedicularis bracteosa, which has also been called Betony, but is an entirely different species from the Scrophulariaceae family with different properties and applications.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Wood Betony is a pretty woodland plant with hairy, square stems that bear aromatic, round-lobed leaves and dense spikes of very rich pink, red or purple flowers arranged in dense whorls that bloom in summertime. This hardy perennial may reach three feet in height and may be found growing wild in meadows or cultivated (particularly in old European gardens), thriving in rich, well-drained, neutral-to-acid soil in sun or partial shade. Native to Europe, Wood Betony is now planted in many parts of the world with temperate climates, and there are several related species found in Asia. In ancient Egypt, Wood Betony was endowed with magical powers and was also highly esteemed in antiquity as a remedy for a wide variety of ailments. The botanical genus, Stachys, is a Greek word, signifying a spike, which aptly describes the plant's distinctive mode of flowering. The herb's English name, Betony, is said to be derived from the Latin name, Vetonica (according to the first-century Roman scholar, Pliny), referring to a people from the Iberian Peninsula, called the Vettones, and this may also be the basis of its original botanical name, Betonica officinalis. Modern scholars, however, claim that the word is derived from a primitive Celtic form of bew (head) and ton (good), because of the plant's historical use for complaints in the head. Wood Betony was highly esteemed as a medicinal herb by the Greeks and Romans. Antonius Musa, a physician to Caesar Augustus, composed a long treatise, prescribing Wood Betony as a certain cure for almost fifty diseases, including the danger of epidemical diseases, liver ailments - and evil spells. In Anglo Saxon times, Wood Betony continued to be an important medicinal herb and was once considered the sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head. It also endured as a magical herb; people wore it as a protective emblem, the same use that continued into Medieval England, when it was used to prevent bad dreams of devils and demons. Wood Betony was listed in many early respected "Herbals," including the Medicina Britannica of 1666, as a remedy for "the most obstinate headaches," a use that has been echoed through the ages. The esteemed seventeenth-century herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, noted that Wood Betony "helpeth those that have continual pains in the head....those that cannot digest their meat...have weak stomachs or sour belchings. It helpeth the jaundice....the gout." The dried leaves were sometimes included in herbal tobaccos and snuff, most notably the medicinal snuff, "Rowley's British Herb Snuff," which was quite famous for headaches. The leaves were also employed as a fine yellow dye for wool. Today, although it is not as popular as it once was, Wood Betony is still used in herbal medicines and included in many herbal teas to calm the nerves and ease tension and tension headaches. Wood Betony is a bitter, astringent herb, and the leaves and flowers are used in herbal medicine, although historically the root has also been used. Some of the constituents in Wood Betony include magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, tannin, glycosides, saponins, choline, alkaloids (betonicine, stachydrine, trigonelline and betaine), caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid.
Wood Betony is a tonic that nourishes the nerves and strengthens the central nervous system. Moreover, as an herbal nervine, the herb helps to calm and soothe frayed nerves, diminish hyperactivity, ease stress, reduce tension and anxiety and other nervous disorders, such as convulsions, hysteria, palpitations and panic/anxiety attacks. It is also mildly sedative, which helps to allay excitement, induce relaxation and is conducive to sleep. Wood Betony is thought to be an antispasmodic and has been used to relax muscles (including muscles of the face), control nerve twitching in the face, and palsy.
Further supporting the use of Wood Betony as a tonic for the nervous system, it is believed to alleviate neuralgia, the severe, throbbing or stabbing pain that runs along the course of a nerve, as well as neurasthenia, a condition marked by severe nerve weakness, intense nervous irritability and nervous exhaustion, (sometimes called nervous breakdown, although not technically used). It is frequently associated with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and pessimism. Wood Betony is also thought to nourish the pineal gland, a tiny organ in the cerebrum of the brain that produces melatonin, protecting it from degeneration. Interestingly, degeneration of this gland is thought to cause insanity.
Called "Herb for the Head" in centuries past, Wood Betony is thought to be an excellent way to relieve headaches, particularly those of nervous origin and associated with nervous tension, anxiety and debility. It is said to be particularly helpful for headaches located at the top of the skull or for pains of the face, and some herbalists claim that when taken daily, Wood Betony will prevent migraine headaches.
Wood Betony is a bitter, aromatic herb that has been used for centuries to aid the digestive system and to relieve gastric disorders. As a digestive aid, it helps to improve the appetite, relieve gas, heartburn, gastritis and poor digestion. The herb's stomachic qualities tone and give strength to the stomach, helping to relieve stomach cramps, colic pains and other stomach distress.
Wood Betony is considered an expectorant and has been used to loosen and expel excess upper respiratory tract mucus and has been helpful in relieving sinusitis, colds, la grippe (influenza), chronic asthma and bronchitis.
The tannin in Wood Betony acts as an astringent, and as such, it is used in homeopathic medicine to control diarrhea. It has also been used to improve varicose veins (with regular use), edema (accumulation of fluid in tissues producing swelling), scrofula (swelling of the lymph nodes of the neck) and tuberculosis.
In the seventeenth century, Wood Betony was recommended for jaundice and gout. Today, it is still believed to open obstructions in the liver and gallbladder, soothe the spleen and improve all bilious complaints, including jaundice and conditions associated with impure blood, such as rheumatism and gout.
Wood Betony is considered an aperient, or mild laxative, as well as an anthelmintic that has been used to destroy and successfully expel worms from the intestinal tract (perhaps because of its laxative activity).
Recent research states that Wood Betony is good for cardiovascular health. It is said to be mildly stimulating to the heart, and one study done by scientists in the Soviet Union found that Wood Betony contains a mixture of glycosides, which showed some effect in lowering blood pressure. The improved blood circulation might also explain why the herb is effective in relieving headaches.
Wood Betony is said to have diuretic properties that increase the production and flow of urine and has been effective in easing bladder and kidney problems, flushing the kidneys and expelling impurities and kidney stones.
Used externally, Wood Betony has been used in poultices for wounds (especially if infected), cuts, bruises, insect bites, hemorrhoids, external ulcers and old sores. It is also good for sore throat and gum inflammation.
Wood Betony Herbal Supplement is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. It is said that Wood Betony may take months before it shows results. Overuse (many times the recommended dosage) may cause diarrhea and upset stomach.