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Nutrition Basics


(Stachys Officinalis)

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  • Wood Betony Herbal Description
  • Wood Betony Uses, Health Benefits & Scientific Evidence
  • Wood Betony Dosage Information
  • Wood Betony Safety, Cautions & Interactions
  • Wood Betony Supplements & Products

  • wood betony plants


    Wood Betony (Stachys Officinalis) is also known as Purple Betony, Common Hedgenettle, Bishopwort, Bishop's Wort, Betony, Stachya Betonica, or Betonica officinalis. It is native to the British Isles and Europe.

    In the Middle Ages Wood Betony was thought to be an effective herbal treatment for a host of human ills ranging from the common cold to warding off supernatural spirits. This herb possesses mild astringent properties and has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for diarrhea. It also has sedative and digestive qualities as well.

    Wood Betony is a perennial grassland herb growing to between 1 and 2 feet tall and has purple-red flowers which bloom in the months of July and August. The calyx is 5 to 7 mm long, with 5 teeth, edged with bristles. The corolla 1 to 1.5 cm long. Its upper lip flat, almost straight when seen from the side. The anthers stick straight out. Its leaves are stalked on upright stems, narrowly oval, with heart-shaped base, with a somewhat wrinkled texture and toothed margins. It is found growing in dry grasslands, meadows, and open woods in most of Europe, western Asia and North Africa. In the British Isles it is common in England and wales, but rare in Ireland and northern Scotland.

    Previously all the plant was used by herbalists, but now the roots are not used. It was used in snuff because it makes you sneeze violently and so clears the nasal passages. It is claimed that the fresh leaves have an intoxicating effect, which is why a medicinal herbal tea (known as tisane) is always prepared with the dried leaves and flowers. The aerial parts contain phenylethanoid glycosides, (betonyosides A-F) and acetoside, acetoside isomer, campneosides II, forsythoside B and leucosceptoside B. The roots contain diterpene glycosides, betonicosides A-D and te diterpene, betonicolide.

    Wood Betony is a woodland plant like the Bluebell and is one of the Betony plants that grow in Britain and Europe. Other related plants are Marsh Stachys or Clown's Wort (Stachya palustris), the Woundwort (Stachys germanica) which may not be native to Britain but has become naturalized. Field Stachys (Stachya avensis) and Hedge Stachys or Hedge Wort (Stachya sylvatica. This page will only discuss Wood Betony.)

    wood betony - stachys officinalis


    Today, the dried herb of Wood Betony in a tincture or infusion is used to treat chronic headaches, anxiety, and nervousness. This herb is occasionally recommended as a treatment for diarrhea, or as a mouthwash to soothe mucous membranes of the mouth, gums, and throat. It also stimulates the heart and relaxes the muscles. Wood Betony can stimulate the appetite and improve digestion, and it works well for treating cardiovascular disorders and hyperactivity. A Russian study has shown the glycosides in Wood Betony have hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) effects. This herb can also be used in treating anxiety, mild headaches, facial pain, premenstrual pain, poor memory, and tension. Externally it can be used on wounds, bruises and leg ulcers.


    Wood Betony herbal plant has been used in medicine for centuries, and was written about by Dioscorides in the first century AD and was mentioned by Pliny the Elder who called it Vettonica. The ancient Greeks praised its healing powers and used it for protection against evil too. It was so popular in Europe that the Italians had an old saying, "Sell your coat and buy betony" while in Spain it was said of a good man, "He has as many virtues as betony." The first reference to Betony occurs in a work by the chief physician of the Roman Emperor Augustus, Antonius Musa, who claimed in a medical treatise that Betony could cure 47 diseases which he listed. He also claimed it as effective against sorcery. It was planted in churchyards to prevent activity by ghosts.

    In the Middle Ages it was commonly worn around the neck as an amulet, and the Renaissance Humanist, Erasmus, wrote that it protected "those that carried it about them." He also said that it was good as protection against having "fearful visions." He may have been quoting Apuleius Platonicus (c.550 to 625) who wrote the following lines about wood betony; "It is good whether for man's soul or for his body, it shields him against visions and dreams, and the wort (plant) 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 cleaves 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 needest."

    However now it is recommended that the flowering plant is gathered in July in the early flowering season after the dew has evaporated from it on a bright day. Having done that you should tie it in bundles of 6 stems with leaves and flowers and tie it in a fan-shape so that the air can penetrate and hang them in an airy hot room or outside until they are dry. If you dry them outside you should bring them in at night so that they do not get wet because of the dew. After they are dried, pack them loosely in wooden boxes or tins carefully so that they do not crumble.

    Wood Betony was seen as a herbal panacea in ancient times and used to cure many illnesses. Monasteries, apothecaries and herbalists planted it in their herb gardens for medicinal purposes so they could mix it with herbs such as Yarrow (to stop a nosebleed) and Coltsfoot for different remedies.

    The Anglo Saxon Herbal recommends its use to prevent bad dreams (frightful nocturnal goblins and terrible sights and dreams). A Welsh charm prescribes Betony to prevent dreaming, take the leaves of Betony, and hang about your neck, or else drink the juice on going to bed.

    The following is a quotation from the book of the Physicians of Myddfai who were equally familiar with Wood Betony. "If the juice is boiled in white wine and drunk, it will cure the colic and the swelling of the stomach. Pounding it small, expressing the juice and apply it with a feather to the eye of a man will clear and strengthen his sight, and remove specks from his eye. The juice is a good thing to drop into the ears of those who are deaf." It was also written that the powder of the dried plant when mixed with Honey could help get rid of coughs and "benefit many diseases of the lungs."

    The word Betony comes from the Celtic words bew meaning head and ton meaning good. This was one of the main uses for wood betony-curing all head problems be they physical or mental.

    One superstitious belief is that if snakes were put into a circle of Betony they would fight to the death (of both). This was said to be because betony had the power to get rid off all evil and of course the snake was the symbol of evil in mediaeval Europe and it was the snake or serpent which gave Eve the apple to eat which led to Adam and Eve being ejected from Paradise and the Garden of Eden.

    John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". While Nicholas Culpeper believed that it protected people from "the danger of epidemical diseases" such as the plague (and from witchcraft also), and "It helpeth those that loathe and cannot digest their food." It is a preccious herb, well work keeping in the house and also states that Betony is astrologically ruled by Jupiter and Aries. He also says that it cures jaundice, epilepsy, gout, palsy, dropsy, as well as coughs, colds and flu and respiratory problems including consumption. He suggested that using it with Mead (Honey Wine) and Pennyroyal was "good for putrid agues" and made a good vermifuge for getting rid of internal parasites such as worms. Apart from these remedies he also believed that it was good for "obstructions of the spleen and liver." The juice from the leaves was good for the bites "of mad dogs" he says and for the relief of toothache. As a wound healer the juice can be applied directly to the skin, or a medicinal herbal tea can be used for this purpose.

    In traditional Austrian medicine, it was used internally as tea, or externally as compresses or baths for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, skin and gynecological problems. Modern herbalists prescribe Betony to treat anxiety, gallstones, heartburn, high blood pressure, migraine and neuralgia, and to prevent sweating. It can also be used as an ointment for cuts and sores.'

    Wood Betony has tannins and so astringent qualities making it a good treatment for diarrhea and also a medicinal herbal tea can be used as a mouthwash and gargle for sore throats. The whole plant contains flavonoids and glycosides which have a hypotensive action (they lower blood pressure) and so can be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, which was clearly recognized by our ancestors.

    The Chinese use one of the Betonies, Stachys sieboldii to relieve colds and flu, and in European folk medicine the use of Wood Betony as a herbal tonic for the nerves has a long history. Very little modern medical research has been done on Wood Betony, although one Russian study showed that it increased women's ability to produce milk when breastfeeding.

    Medical research suggests that Wood Betony can be helpful for neuralgia especially that caused by medical treatment or therapy, as well as shingles (a variant form of chickenpox). It has been traditionally used to treat urinary tract inflammation and is good for cystitis. The leaves contain a volatile oil and exude this when bruised and it is this which might give the plant its wound healing properties. The whole plant can also be used as a yellow hair dye, and this is especially good for giving grey hair a blonde tint.


    A tisane can be made with 1 or 2 teaspoons of the dried leaves and flowers and a cup of boiling water. Pour the water over them and leave to steep for 15 mins, then strain and drink. This is good for respiratory ailments, coughs, colds and flu (add a little honey), digestion, and to improve appetite, and if you mix 1 teaspoon dried Wood Betony with a teaspoon of dried Chamomile Flowers (or 2 teaspoons fresh) this will stop menstrual cramps. You can take two cups per day of the Wood Betony Tisane for any of the above-mentioned cures, as well as using it as a gargle and mouthwash. It can also be used to clean wounds and staunch bleeding.


    A few of the fresh leaves or Wood Betony can be added to salads, but they have a mildly bitter taste, so should be finely shredded. They help to stimulate the digestive system and boost the functioning of the liver.


    If you pound the Wood Betony leaves to a pulp they are good to apply to wounds and bruises as a poultice, and can be used as a temporary dressing.


    The following recipe is a nerve tonic used to relieve anxiety, nervous headaches and stress. Older herbalists prescribed it for "hysterics" and other nervous disorders.

    Ingredients Instructions: Combine all the ingredients into a glass bottle and leave to stand in a sunny place such as on a windowsill for two weeks. Take 1/4 cup to relieve nervous headaches, stress etc.


    Wood Betony comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products.

    To make an infusion, take 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in 1 cup of boiling water. Drink 3 cups a day.

    For using a tincture, take 2 to 6 ml 3 times a day.


    Wood Betony is generally regarded as safe when taken in the recommended dosages. However, exceeding the standard dose may cause excessive irritation of the stomach. Not for use while pregnant. Safety in young children, nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease is not known.


  • Wood Betony Herbal Products


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    Mountain Rose Herbs: Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis), Certified Organic, Bulk Organic Herbs & Spices
    Mountain Rose Herbs: Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis) Seeds, 100 Seed Packet
    Herbaceous perennial, very easy to start from seed. Takes 2 years to flower, but well worth the wait. The moisture loving plant prefers sun or shade and normal garden soil. Has beautiful red/purple flowering spikes that attract bees. Tea is made from dried leaf and is useful for headaches and mild nervine.


    Starwest Botanicals: Wood Betony Herb, Organic, Cut & Sifted, 1 lb.
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    HerbsPro: Wood Betony Extract (Stachys officinalis), Eclectic Institute, 1 fl. oz.
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    HerbsPro: Wood Betony Extract (Stachys officinalis), Natures Answer, 1 fl. oz.
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    Kalyx: Wood Betony Herb (Betonica officinalis), Cut & Sifted, Organic, Starwest Botanicals, 1 lb. (C)
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