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Wood Betony

Today I finally have some cup hooks on my shelves ready for drying my herbs in my revamped kitchen. Today I harvested some Stachys officinalis or wood betony so I thought I would do a little post!

Stachys is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint family). A hardy perennial perennial growing to 2-3ft, with heart shaped leaves and spikes of magenta flowers; with square stems and alternate leaves commonly found within the mint family. Found throughout Europe on open grassland and woodland. The name Stachys comes from Greek, meaning ‘an ear of grain’ which references the herb’s spiked flower head.

In the Middle Ages, Betony was used to protect against evil and the leaves were carried or worn to protect the wearer; also tied on animals and planted in churchyards and houses. In terms of herbalism, it was considered a herb to suit most conditions, with the phrase ‘sell your coat and buy betony’ commonly mentioned for times of sickness. In 23 BC, the physician to Roman Emperor Caesar, Antonius Musa, detailed Wood Betony and stated 47 uses! Betony was also listed by Hildegard de Bingen, the first German botanist and female scholar, 1098 – 1179, as an important medicinal plant.

Energetically, this herb is slightly warming, drying, and pungent. In our modern times, the aerial parts ( the flower and leaf) is used to make a tea. It is considered a tonic, helping to cleanse the blood and build strength, especially during convalescence. It is particularly used for symptoms of nervous origin, especially those of the head, such as headache, anxiety, depression. It is also used for digestive issues, owing to its bitter and aromatic qualities; as well as irritations of mucous membranes on account of the tannin content.

Many studies have shown positive physiological effects of a forest atmosphere; this is believed to be due to the various phytochemicals produced by trees, which are inhaled. The major components of the forest atmosphere are terpenes. Tobyn et al (2011) mentions that Stachys officinalis contains volatile oils, in particular, sesquiterpenes at around 62–71% - it seems the wisdom of our Elders should not be underestimated!

Matkowski & Piotrowska (2006) also found Stachys to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to polyphenols and flavonoids. Notably, quercein and apigenin, with the latter creating apotosis in dying cells, and most likely why it was considered a great all round tonic. Science is beginning to prove our Elders right!

Other species within the woundworts such as hedge woundwort Stachys sylvatica, with erect hairy stems and nettle-shaped leaves and claret flowers, is traditionally used for healing wounds but does not have the same properties as Stachys officinalis. #herbalism

G.Tobyn, A. Denham, M.Whitelegg (2011) Medical Herbs, Chapter 29 Stachys officinalis, wood betony. Churchill Livingstone. Pp. 307-316. ISBN 9780443103445. (

Adam Matkowski, Magdalena Piotrowska (2006) Antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of some medicinal plants from the Lamiaceae, Fitoterapia,Volume 77, Issue 5, Pages 346-353,

Cho KS, Lim YR, Lee K, Lee J, Lee JH, Lee IS (2017) Terpenes from Forests and Human Health. Toxicol Res. 2017 Apr;33(2):97-106. doi: 10.5487/TR.2017.33.2.097.

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