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This perennial is commonly
known as Purple Betony, Lousewort, Wild hop, Wood betony (Do not confuse
with true Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis)), or Bishop's wort. It is
related to Stachys (Lambs ear) but does not have that silvery feathery
foliage, it looks more like giant mint. I have been growing this for several
years from a cutting out of a friends garden without knowing where it came
from or what Genus or species it was. I knew it was beautiful, hardy and a
little invasive-I finally did my research and would like to share with you
what I have found out.
The name betony is alleged to derive from the ancient Celtic words bew (head) and ton (good), an indication of its use for headaches. The word stachys comes from the Greek, meaning "an ear of grain," and refers to the fact that the inflorescence is often a spike.
Betony is a perennial grassland herb growing to 1 to 2 feet tall. Its leaves are large stalked on upright stems, narrowly oval, with a heart-shaped base, with a somewhat wrinkled texture and toothed margins. . Its large lavender, purple fspikey florettes blossom in mid summer from July to September for a fabulous boquet display.
The first reference to Betony occurs in a work
by the Roman physician Antonius Musa, who claimed it as effective against
sorcery. It was planted in churchyards to prevent activity by ghosts.
The Anglo Saxon Herbal recommends its use to prevent bad dreams. ('frightful nocturnal goblins and terrible sights and dreams'). A Welsh charm prescribes:- to prevent dreaming, take the leaves of betony, and hang about your neck, or else drink the juice on going to bed. Commonly grown in physic gardens of apothecaries and monasteries for medicinal purposes.
An Italian proverb advices that you should "Sell your coat and buy Betony." While a Spanish compliment states, "He has as many virtues as Betony."Betony was an ingredient of "Pistoja powder," an old remedy for arthritis and gout. It was also claimed to be effective against snake and dog bites, and was believed to be a cure for drunkenness. Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day."
John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well." While Nicholas Culpeper stated that, "...it preserves the liver and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical deseases, and from witchcraft also" and "...this is a precious herb, well worth keeping in your house." He also states that Betony is astrologically ruled by Jupiter and Aries.
Modern herbalists prescribe betony to treat anxiety, gallstones, heartburn, high blood pressure, migraine and neuralgia, and to prevent sweating. It can also be used as an ointment for cuts and sores. Not all of these uses are supported by scientific evidence.
But I like useful plants with history.