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Wood betony comes from Europe.
Other Names: Betony, Bishopswort
“Sell your coat and buy betony“, admonished an Italian proverb of the Middle Ages.
Wood betony was once considered an herbal “magic bullet” for dispelling a wide variety of diseases. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Roman emperor Caesar August, catalogued 47 conditions he treated with the herb.
Wood Betony as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
Over the years, herbalists have turned to wood betony for such problems as flatulence, heartburn, headache, fatigue, bladder irritation, excessive perspiration, coughing and respiratory congestion.
The medicinal part is the herb, including, including the basal leaves.
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.’ “
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. It is useful in hysteria, palpitations pain in the head and face, neuralgia and all nervous affections. In the Medicina Britannica (1666) we read: ‘I have known the most obstinate headaches cured by daily breakfasting for a month or six weeks on a decoction of Betony made with new milk and strained.‘
Wood Betony was once used to expel worms, treat stomach disorders, gout, headaches, and spleen troubles. As an expectorant, it was used for coughs, bronchitis and asthma. Now it is used mostly as a flavoring in herbal teas.
In folk medicine, wood betony is used as an antidiarrheal agent, a carmative, and a sedative, and for catarrh, lung catarrh, heartburn, gout, nervousness, bladder and kidney stones, and inflammation of the bladder.
Homeopathic Uses: Betonica officinalis is used in homeopathy for asthma and general states of debility.
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.’
To make Betony tea, pour a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the herb powder. A wine glassful of this decoction three times a dayproves a benefit against languid nervous headaches.
A pinch of the powdered herb will provoke violent sneezing. The dried leaves formed an ingredient in Rowley’s British Herb Snuff, which was at one time quite famous for headaches.
The fresh leaves are said to have an intoxicating effect. They have been used to dye wool a fine yellow.
Culinary Uses of Wood Betony
No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
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