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Wood Betony and Its Herbal Properties

Biological Description

Wood Betony is a heeling herb for many ailments that is also known under the names Bishop’s wort, Purple Betony and its biological names Betonica officinalis or Stachys Betonica.

This perennial herb belongs to the family Labiatae. It is rather tall, grows up to 70cm; you can easily find it because of its numerous bright purple flowers ( nearly 15 in one cluster) on the very end of its upright thick green stem.

Flowers can be yellow to red in color; are in bloom during mid and ends of the summer. Betony’s leaves are narrowly oval and hairy, dark green in color, upper leaves are smaller than lower ones; grow from several rosettes on its stem.


Wood Betony is native to Europe, but nowadays can be found in many other countries of Asia, some northern states of America, Mexico and even Africa. Many herbalists find Betony to be difficult to cultivate, as it requires rather moist soil which is well-drained, and sunny (or partially shaded) location.

You can see Wood Betony in open woods, roadsides and meadows, as well as it is also cultivated in lots of regions of temporary climates.

Parts Used

It herbal purposes the entire herb is used: its upper aerial part and its root. As for its aerial part – it should be collected just before it’s blooming, approximately in the beginning of July (in case of hot summer – at the end of June) necessarily in dry weather. This part is then dried and used for various ailments and states. The best way for that is to let it dry in open sunlight throughout summer.


Wood Betony is available on the market in various forms, but mainly in extracts, tinctures and teas. Betony Teas are very good in taste (similar with oriental black), infusions are often drunk as tea as well (from leaves or root). Leaves (fresh or dried) are used for poultice preparation. Betony can be found in form of gargles, wash, capsules and in mixture with other herbs (such as skullcap, yarrow, lavender, etc.) and even wines (for tonic drinks). Fresh roots are very sweet and often used in culinary properties as well.


The herb contains lots of useful active compounds that give it its astringent, tonic, sedative, and relaxing properties. Wood Betony contains various alkaloids, saponins and tannins as active constituents that make the herb rather effective herbal remedy in case of diarrhea, premenstrual pains, palpitations, bronchitis, asthma, and even kidney stones.

For the same reason it is recommended as gargles, as Betony poultices and mouthwash soothe throat‘s mucous membranes. Wood Betony is an effective remedy for headaches and nervousness, due to glycoside constituent, that is believed to lower blood pressure.

It relaxes the whole body (especially the head area) and gives calm and peace, stimulates different body systems (such as digestive). It has been also long believed that Betony gives peaceful sleep and good dreams, purifies the body (especially the blood system), and even gives protection both for good health and good fortune.

Health Benefits

Wood Betony usage is now limited and used for several ailments (it has earlier been used as a cure-all), mainly for:

  • Treating headaches and facial pain
  • Neuralgia
  • Its sedative properties are used for calming down emotional tension and treating anxiety and stress (it also strengthens the nervous system of the body), promotes good sleep
  • Nervous disorders
  • Treating diarrhea (very small doses are used, as in large it gives laxative effect)
  • Memory problems and lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Nasal congestion and pain in facial region due to sinusitis
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic rheumatism
  • Wounds and bruises (poultice from fresh leaves is used), ulcers (when infusion is added to a bath)
  • Mouth ulcers, gum inflammations and sore throat (mouthwash is used)
  • Stomach cramps (as it stimulates and cleanse digestive system) and gastritis
  • For improving of the function of the liver
  • Premenstrual (menstrual )pain
  • May be helpful in case of hard and painful labor (though some sources do not recommend Betony for pregnant women usage)
  • In case of different ailment with lung (bronchitis, asthma)
  • It is even used in case of insect bites, worm and some other ailment

The herb is generally used as a general tonic with ability to cause muscles to relax. The effectiveness is doubled when the herb is used in combination with other herbs, but this is the prerogative of the professional herbalist. The taste of Betony is rather sweet and slightly bitter, so it usually used together with honey or hot milk.

Here are averages doses for using Wood Betony:
  • Infusions, Tea: l-2 teaspoon of a dried herb (or leaves) with 1 cup of boiled water, drink after 10 minutes
  • Capsules: take two capsules twice a day with full glass of water after your meal
  • Tinctures: take 2-6 ml of the tincture 3 times a day

Note, that the herb should be used for a long time (about a month) for the result to be seen. And it is very important to follow the recommended dose and not to exceed it (it is considered to be nontoxic, but still may lead to mild stomach upset).

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