Wood Betony (Betony)
Botanical Name: Western – Stachys officinalis, Syn. Betonica officinalis.
Wood betony can be enjoyed as a healthy tonic and substitute to black tea. Taken three times a day it can help calm anxiety, relieve nervous headaches and improve your overall health. As a medicine the herb has a long history of being used to treat a wide variety of lung and digestive issues, as well as being recognized as a gentle blood tonic. The Spanish have a saying, “He has as many virtues as betony” pointing to the herbs many applications to help heal. In Oriental medicine the species Stachys sieboldii is used. This species is sometimes called Chinese or Japanese artichoke. It is not related to artichokes, but is, like wood betony, from the mint family of plants. It also sometimes called “artichoke betony” and has very similar properties.
Below is an overview of Wood Betony (Betony), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Wood Betony (Betony).
Western Name: Wood Betony
Also Known As: Betony, Hedgenettle, Bishop’s wort, Purple Betony, Bidney, Wild Hop, Lousewort
Organs/Systems: Lungs, Digestive System
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Blood and Nerve Tonic, Emmenagogue, Anodyne, Stomachic, Cardiac, Anti-tumor, Aphrodisiac, Antistress, Astringing, Aromatic, Alterative, Diuretic, Vulnerary. UTIs (urinary tract infections), weak circulation, joint pain, headaches, weak liver function, cardiac anemia, bloody, sore muscles, kidney pain, kidney stones, asthma, bronchitis, excess sweating, diarrhea, menstrual cramping, heartburn, intestinal gas, gout, nervousness, epilepsy, tension, stress, anxiety, rheumatism.
Pin Yin: Betony
Also Known As: Chinese Artichoke, Japanese Artichoke, Artichoke Betony, Crosne
Meridians: Lung, Liver, Bladder
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Moves Qi/Relieves Qi Stagnation: Colds, flu, headache due to high blood pressure, migraine, asthma, menstrual cramps, stalled labor, dribbling, constipation, edema. Clears Heat/Releases to the Exterior: Lung infections due to Wind Heat, swollen sore throat, body aches, headache, copious white or yellow phlegm, blood in sputum, bronchitis.Stops Spasms/Relieves Pain:general aches and pains, chronic arthritis, rheumatism, spasmodic dysmenorrhea. Calms Shen/Soothes Nerves: Nervous unrest, anxiety, facial neuralgia, numbness. Heals Wounds: promotes tissue repair, mouth and gum infections, cuts, bruises, leg ulcers, nose bleeds.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Western (Stachys officinalis) – The Above Ground Plant (Arial Parts: Flowers, Stems, and Leaves). Eastern (Stachys sieboldii) – Root Tubers.
Flavors/Temps: Slightly Bitter, Warming
Caution: Considered very safe. It can be used by pregnant women and the old and young alike. As it can lower blood pressure consult your doctor if already using blood pressure medications.
History/Folklore: Wood betony is an herb that has been revered as a tonic in European herbalism. It was used to treat everything, but most especially any ailments having to do with the head including headaches, sinus troubles, and unhappiness. Today we consider it a brain tonic that can lift the spirits and improve mental functioning.
Do not confuse the Western species, Stachys officinalis (Wood Betony), with the species Stachys sieboldii (Chinese or Japanese Artichoke) used in Oriental medicine while it has similar properties, and they both come from the same Mint family, they are different species of plants. In Oriental medicine the root of Chinese or Japanese Artichoke is used instead of the aerial parts of the herb that are used when making medicine from wood betony.
The common name for the Chinese variety of wood betony is “Chinese or Japanese Artichoke.” Do not confuse the common name to mean the plant has anything in common with artichokes. It does not. Wood betony and Chinese artichoke are both in the Mint family and not the Compositae family artichokes belong to.
In Asia, Chinese artichoke (Stachys sieboldii) tubers are eaten as a food as well as used to make medicine. The tubers are small and crisp with a wonderful nutty flavor. They are eaten raw or cooked.
Wood betony is a slow working herb. Its effects are mild and accumulative. It behaves like many tonics whose effects are not immediately recognized as a “cure” for any particular ailment, but strongly recommended for improving overall health. It helps the body fix itself, and this takes time. It begins by working on the nervous system where it both restores and relaxes the system. Even small doses (just 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb to one pint of boiling water and let steep for 5 minutes can be used daily over an extended period of time) will show excellent results. Again, it is especially effective when taken over time.
Wood betony has also been used as an essential oil to help calm headaches and treat neuralgia.
The ancient Egyptians, early Anglo-Saxons, and Celts believed the herb to have magical properties that provided protection, prevented nightmares and expelled evil spirits. The Romans listed wood betony as a healing herb. A Roman physician to Caesar Augustus, devoted one whole book to wood betony indicating its ability to cure up to 47 different ailments.
During the Middle Ages, wood betony was used as a medicine and worn around the neck or in your pocket to ward off evil and prevent despair. The ability to protect against evil spirits has led it to often be found growing in the gardens of monasteries and apothecaries. An old superstition states that serpents would fight and kill each other if placed within a ring of wood betony.
The 17th century English herbalist, Robert Turner, noted 30 complaints that could effectively be treated with wood betony.
Wood betony has been used in Oriental medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. In Oriental medicine it is popularly used to treat colds, flus, and as a tonic for good health. The herb is used to make a mouthwash you can gargle with to help soothe sore throats.
Wood betony was used by Native Americans as a medicine and as an aphrodisiac. The fresh leaves are said to be intoxicating.
A study conducted in Russia found that the glycosides found in the plant may help lower blood pressure which would also support the herb’s ability to relieve headaches.
The word “betony” derives from the old Celtic words “bew” meaning head and “ton” meaning good. The herb was considered the remedy of choice for any ailments having to do with the head from headaches to hangovers to nervous disorders.
There is an old Italian saying that says, “You should sell your coat and buy betony.” The implication being that in times when even having a coat was a sign of wealth, one was still better off having betony on hand, it was that valuable.
The dried leaves have been used to make a pretty yellow, chartreuse dye used to color wool and other fabrics.
Alkaloids (including: Betaine, Betonicin, Stachydrin, Trigonellin, Turicin), Betulinic-acid, Caffeic acid, Chlorogenic acid, Harpagide, Rosmarinic, Tannins, Flavonoids, Saponins, Glycosides, Essential oil traces.
Wood betony is a long lived herb.
Possible Increase in Head Symptoms
If you experience a slight increase in head symptoms after taking betony for a few days, don’t panic. It is typically recognized as a sign that you are about to experience an improvement in your mental health and well-being.
Enjoy a Cup of Tea
A weak infusion of the herb is often enjoyed as a healthy tonic and substitute to black tea, which it can taste like. One pint of boiling water to an ounce of dried herb is all you need.
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