Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health

Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health

Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Betony (Stachys officinalis) is known as other names: Bétoine, Betónica, Betonica officinalis, Bishopswort, Bishop Wort, Épiaire Officinale, Épiaire Vulgaire, Hedge Nettles, Stachys betonica, Stachys officinalis, Tabac des Gardes, Wood Betony.

Betony (Stachys officinalis) is a perennial grassland herb growing to 30 to 60  cm (1 to 2 ft) tall. Its leaves are stalked on upright stems, narrowly oval, with a heart-shaped base, with a somewhat wrinkled texture and toothed margins. The calyx is 5–7 mm long, with 5 teeth, edged with bristles. The corolla 1–1.5 cm long. Its upper lip flat, almost straight when seen from the side. The anthers stick straight out. Betony is found in dry grassland, 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.

Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health
Betony (Stachys officinalis) Picture

The majority of the leaves, however, spring from the root and these are larger, on long stalks and of a drawn-out, heart shape. All the leaves are rough to the touch and are also fringed with short, fine hairs; their whole surface is dotted with glands containing a bitter, aromatic oil.

At the top of the stem are the two-lipped flowers of a very rich purplish-red, arranged in dense rings or whorls, which together form short spikes. Then there is a break and a piece of bare stem, with two or four oblong, stalkless leaves and then more flowers, the whole forming what is termed an interrupted spike, a characteristic peculiarity by which Betony is known from all other labiate flowers. The cup or calyx of each flower is crowned by five sharp points, each representing a sepal. The corolla is a long tube ending in two lips, the upper lip slightly arched, the lower one flat, of three equal lobes. The four stamens lie in two pairs within the arch of the upper lip, one pair longer than the other, and shed their pollen on to the back of bee visitors who come to drink the honey in the tube, and thus unconsciously effect the fertilization of the next flower they visit, by carrying to it this pollen that has been dusted upon them. After fertilization, four brown, smooth three-cornered nutlets are developed. The flowers are in bloom during July and August.

Remedies made from betony or wood betony has a long historical use in the folk medicine of many cultures, the herb is one of those medicinal plants that once had a great reputation, being considered good for practically every malady.At this time, the only principal use for this remedy in fold medicine is as an herbal astringent, this beneficial effect is due to the high level of tannins present in the herb. Betony is used for digestion problems including heartburn, diarrhea, and intestinal gas; for breathing problems including bronchitis and asthma; for painful conditions including gout, headache, and facial pain; and for urinary tract conditions including bladder and kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) and bladder pain and swelling (inflammation). It is also used to treat stress and tension, nervousness, and epilepsy. In combination with other herbs, betony is used to treat nerve pain (neuralgia) and anxiety.

History of Betony (Stachys officinalis)

The Wood Betony (S. Betonica according to present-day nomenclature, though nemed Betonica officinalis, by Linnaeus) was held in high repute not only in the Middle Ages, but also by the Greeks who extolled its qualities. An old Italian proverb, ' Sell your coat and buy Betony, ' and 'He has as many virtues as Betony,' a saying of the Spaniards, show what value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a long treatise, showing it was a certain cure for no less than fortyseven diseases.

Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health
Betony (Stachys officinalis) Flowers Picture

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.' 

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.

Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health

Most contemporary herbalist neglect the betony as a potential remedy, however, the beneficial properties of this herb are worth rediscovering and exploiting. Betony was believed to possess many magical properties, including the power to ward off evil spirits - Betony was widely used in amulets for this reason. In contemporary folk medicine, the medication is principally valued for its astringent properties, useful in the treatment of problems such as diarrhea and in treating irritations affecting the throat, the mouth, and the gums. Betony was also used to treat asthma, bronchitis, kidney problems, excess sweating and to purge the body of worms.

Betony was once the sovereign remedy for all maladies of the head, and its properties as a nervine and tonic are still acknowledged, though it is more frequently employed in combination with other nervines than alone. Betony is useful in hysteria, palpitations pain in the head and face, neuralgia and all nervous affections.

Benefits Of Betony (Stachys officinalis) For Health
Betony (Stachys officinalis) Picture

When the composition of the sap of the wood betony is chemically analyzed, the herb is found to have about fifteen per cent tannin; this high tannin content explains its great effectiveness as an astringent. Betony was also found a mixture of glycosides in the composition of the herb, at least one of these glycosides was found to be a plant pigment called a flavonoid. The glycosides found in the wood betony are reported to possess a hypotensive effect - an ability to lower the blood pressure.

As an aromatic, betony has also astringent and alterative action, and combined with other remedies is used as a tonic in dyspepsia and as an alterative in rheumatism, scrofula and impurities of the blood.

This property of the betony makes it very effective in alleviating problems such as diarrhea and in treating various irritations affecting the mucous membranes in the body. When used as an ordinary herbal remedy, the wood betony should not induce any significant side effects in a person, however, an over dose of the remedy could induce excessive irritation on the tissues lining the stomach and cause other symptoms.

Betony has somewhat the taste of tea and all the good qualities of it, without the bad ones. To make Betony tea, pour a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the dried herb. A wineglassful of this decoction three times a dayproves a benefit against languid nervous headaches.

The dried betony herb may also be smoked as tobacco, combined with Eyebright and Coltsfoot, for relieving headache.

The fresh betony leaves are said to have an intoxicating effect. They have been used to dye wool a fine yellow.

Betony stay bleeding at the nose and mouth, and help those that spit blood, and is good for those that have a rupture and are bruised. The green herb bruised, or the juice, applied to any inward hurt, or outward wound in body or head will quickly heal and close it up. It will draw forth any broken bone or splinter, thorn or other thing gotten into the flesh, also healeth old sores or ulcers and boils. The root is displeasing both to taste and stomach, whereas the leaves and flowers by their sweet and spicy taste, comfort both in meat and medicine.'

Betony (Stachys officinalis) and Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of betony during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Surgery: Betony might affect blood pressure. So there is some concern that it might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Stop using betony at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Do not use the these herbs for any use, medicinal or otherwise, without first consulting a qualified doctor.