Wood Betony is a perennial mint. The leaves are scalloped, soft and supple to the touch and not hairy. The leaves form a dense rosette before shooting up the flower stalks. The leaf stems have a defined groove on only one side of the stem. The flowers are a showy lavender color that adds to the garden color palate. It prefers partial shade and well drained, moist conditions. It self seeds without being invasive. Plants transplant well in the spring.
Harvest the leaves before the flowers come into full bloom. Sometimes it is difficult to disturb this lovely looking rosette to harvest leaves, so I plant a number of them so I can harvest a few leaves from each plant. Matthew Wood suggests that the “fine vanilla-like flavor is best in spring and early summer, before the flower stalk shoots up.”
Wood Betony dies down to the ground in the fall. I trim off the spent stems and leaves at this time. I find this helpful come spring when the leaves emerge before you know it. That way you don’t run the risk of cutting off new leaf tips to clear away last year’s spent growth. Once the plants are well on their way for the new growing season, I mulch around the base of each plant with chopped up decomposing leaf mulch. It feeds the plants as the mulch decomposes, keeps the roots cool and helps retain moisture.
A few helpful ways of Wood Betony
- Qualities: nervine, antispasmodic, and anodyne (soothes pain)
- Feeds and strengthens the central nervous system, combined with a gentle sedative action, especially when associated with anxiety and tension. (Hoffman)
- Useful for a nervous headache. Combines well with lavender and skullcap. (Hoffmann)
- Opens circulation, reduces nervousness and hypertension. (Wood)
- Poor circulation to extremities (Wood)
- Restorative after a concussion (head injury, concussion, stroke), (Wood)
- Indicated in weak digestion, stomach or abdominal problems (bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation or diarrhea from weakness) (Wood)
- Specific for sore muscles caused by overwork, spasm or trauma. (Winston)
- Promotes cerebral circulation, opens the arterial blood supply, and is thought to reduce high blood pressure. (Wood)
- Use Wood Betony, Rosemary and Gingko in equal parts as a general tonic for older people. (Wood)
- “a plaster made of betony leaves ground well will heal an eye which has been damaged by a stroke. Make certain the plaster lies still against the eye all night.” (Wood quotes eleventh century Macer)
Wood Betony is an herb I want to get to know better. I look forward to combining Wood Betony with skullcap and lavender for that nervous headache. Not that I want a headache, but it is an opportunity to try out a few herbs or combinations. I found it a particularly interesting read about how Wood Betony may help when it comes to head injuries, concussions and stroke. I’m also thinking that a combination of Wood Betony and St. Johns Wort (which will be another plant partner post soon) may be just the ticket for my overworked, sore muscles. I’ll have to report back on how that goes!
Cech, Richo. (2000). Making Plant Medicine. Williams Oregon, A Horizon Herbs Publication.
Hoffmann, David. (1988). The Herbal Handbook. Rochester, Vermont. Healing Arts Press.
Winston, David. (2003). Herbal Therapeutics. Broadway, N.J. Herbal Therapeutics Research Library.
Wood, Matthew. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal, A Complete Guide to the Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books.
Wood, Matthew. (1997). The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books.