Wood Betony

It’s the time of the high summer flowers now, the last rush to flower and set seed before shorter days and colder nights. A lot of them are tall, to compete with the top-heavy grasses, but woven into the hedgerows are more modest herbs too. One of my favourites is wood betony, or Stachys officinalis, with its beautiful narrow serrated leaves and purple flowers, shaped, like all the Labiatae, to attract bees.
Betony is cousin to woundwort – Stachys sylvatica – and they both have an astringent quality that makes them useful for healing wounds; something that made them among the most valued of all medicinal herbs in Anglo-Saxon times. But Betony has other virtues too. It’s a useful herb for helping ease headaches, of all sorts from tension headaches to migraines, especially when combined with circulatory stimulants like Limeflower or Yarrow. And Betony is a gentle tranquilliser, taking the edge off anxiety and supporting an overtaxed nervous system.
Not one of the better-known herbs nowadays, and often overlooked in favour of more fashionable remedies, but it continues to grow in hedgerows near villages, where our ancestors encouraged it, and it will still be there when we rediscover it, sooner or later.

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