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Wood betony (Stachys officinalis) is a perennial grassland herb that’s native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. At first glance, people might dismiss wood betony merely as a pretty ornamental plant. However, this plant actually has a strong reputation of being a panacea since ancient times. People claim that this herb can cure anything, from the common cough to epilepsy. While these claims might have been exaggerated, this fascinating herb still holds many benefits.
Wood betony has a gentle bittersweet and astringent flavor as well as a warming aroma. The leaves and flowering tops are often brewed to make herbal tea. Simply brew 1 teaspoon of dried betony leaves or flowering tops in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. This herbal tea tastes similar to black tea. Alternatively, this herb can also be made into a tincture, infusion, and tonic.
Wood betony is great for alleviating headaches and migraines, relieving toothaches, improving sleep quality, relieving stress, and improving moods. It also has carminative and mild anti-spasmodic qualities which means it can relieve bloating, alleviate stomach aches, reduce uterine cramping, promote a healthy digestive system, and treat colic. Drinking wood betony tisane can also cure colds, cough, asthma, and other breathing problems. Additionally, you can make a poultice out of this herb to heal wounds and bruises.
This herb can be used on their own or mixed with other herbs. Combining wood betony with other herbs seem to enhance its healing properties. For nervous headaches, make a herbal tea mixture of this herb and skullcap. Meanwhile, wood betony combined with yarrow is great at stopping nosebleeds. Then to treat congestion, cold, and sinus headaches, combine this herb with comfrey.
Aside from being a medicinal herb, wood betony is also cultivated all around the world for its beauty. With its vibrant purple blooms, wood betony can definitely be an attractive addition to any garden. This hardy perennial can adapt well to varying conditions. It’s also a self-sowing plant that’s not very aggressive. So, you can depend on it coming back to your garden year after year without having to worry about it taking over your garden.
As mentioned earlier, this plant can tolerate varying conditions. However, it prefers rich and moist soil. It also thrives well in a partially shaded area, making it the perfect plant to grow in shady areas where other flowering plants wouldn’t grow. As a grassland herb, it requires moderate to high amounts of water to thrive. But, be careful not to overwater them as it may cause the roots to rot.
Start the seeds indoors in early spring. Tamp the seeds lightly into the soil or cover them with a thin layer of soil (around ¼” deep). They should germinate within a week or two. Once they’re large enough to handle, transplant them outdoors in late spring or early summer. Plant them 10” to 12” apart from each other to avoid overcrowding.
The plants will start to bloom in the summer. The leaves and flowering tops taste best when picked before the flowers mature and bloom completely. Harvest by snipping the plant with scissors to around 4” above the ground. The leaves and flowering tops should then be dried by laying them out in the sun.
This herb is generally safe to consume, however, there are some concerns that wood betony might lower blood pressure. So, people who are prone to low blood pressure are advised to avoid wood betony. It’s also better to avoid consumption at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Wood betony is truly an amazing herb. Throughout history, various cultures have been relying on wood betony’s wonderful medicinal properties. As a self-sowing perennial plant, you can count on this herb to come back year after year to your garden.
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
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