Wood betony (Stachys betonica, aka Betonica officinalis)

Wood betony (Stachys betonica, aka Betonica officinalis)

Other common name: Bishopswort

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wood betony

Diagram courtesy of Christiaan Sepp / Wikimedia Commons

Family: Lamiaceae

Actions: Analgesic, astringent, mild bitter, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, nervine, anti-pruritic, antimicrobial, alterative, stomachic, aromatic, vermifuge, cerebral tonic, tonic to the UT, uterine stimulant, circulatory stimulant.


Wood betony is a perennial with a woody root; it blossoms in July and August, and it is best to harvest right as soon as (or slightly before) the flowers open.

Part used: Aerial parts, dried (fresh leaves can have an intoxicating effect)

Constituents: Betaine, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, harpagide, rosmarinic acid, stachyride, tannins.


Pain (especially headaches), nervous diarrhea, anxiety, depression due to burn-out, fever, palpitations, rheumatism (acts as an alterative in rheumatic patients), stomach upset (dyspepsia), mental exhaustion, blood poisoning, parasites (mild), gout, sore throat, chest complaints, colds, migraine (prevention as well as treatment), urinary tract weakness, PMS, lack of period. Topically, use it in a poultice for cuts, bruises, skin ulcers, insect bites and rashes. Gargle for sore gums.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal preparation:


Infuse dried aerial parts as per standard tea infusion. You can also tincture it or take as a capsule. In decades past, patients used to mix dried wood betony with coltsfoot and eyebright and smoke it for headaches.


Topical applications can be used as per standard procedure, including poultices, salves, liniments and washes.


Do not use if you have an allergy to NSAIDS, or if you are pregnant or nursing. Excessive use can cause vomiting. Consult with a doctor first if you are taking any prescription medications (especially tranquilizers, anti-depressants, stimulants or heart medications).

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns. 

Energetic and traditional use:

Betonica in flower

Photo courtesy of Agnieszka Kwiecień, license: CC-BY 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Purifying, cooling, masculine, protective (once planted in churchyards to eliminate bad energy and spirits that aimed to harm), guards against despair and fearful visions. Stimulates and relaxes at once, energetically as well as physically. It is very much affiliated with the head, and works on energetic mental exhaustion or fogginess.

Wood betony was said to be sought out by wounded animals in the woodlands, to cure disease and injuries. It was used to keep evil spirits away, and also to ward off those who have ill intentions. It was rumoured that snakes would fight each other if placed in a ring lined with wood betony. It was infused in water and used as a wash to cleanse children who were believed to be possessed or bewitched. Wood betony has been used to burn in midsummer bonfires. People used to use it in a snuff to provoke intense sneezing which they believed purified the body and cleaned out the sinuses.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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