Growing heirloom plants
Resources for gardeners
Betony. Many thanks to the
Library for providing this
Egerton 747f. 11, c.1300 CE.
Stachy betonica, S.
officinalis, Betonica officinalis
Growing betony in your garden
Betonica, betonice, betonie,
Betonica, betonican, betonice, betoce;
Since ancient times,
when it was known to Dioscorides as kestron, betony has been viewed
as having remarkable powers for healing. Antonius Musa and Apuleius both
credit betony as the key ingredient in no less than 47 different
recommends that this herb be put in all medicines for the stomach, ...as the
most useful and profitable herb to the stomach of all herbs. ...Pliny says that
whoever wears this herb, no evil drink can harm him. ....And he also says that
this herb, taken regularly with wine, will improve the complexion and remedy a
peaked, leaden color.
Macer also provides this prayer, to be offered up before
Betony, you who were first discovered by
Ęsculapius or Chiron the Centaur, hear my prayer, I implore you in the name of
him who ordered your creation and required you to be useful for a multitude of
remedies. Oh powerful herb, help me to make these healing medicines.
The Physicians of Myddvai report that
betony will prevent or heal:
kidney stones, colic and gas pains ...specks on the eyes, dull vision
... deafness, coughs, lung diseases, and the ague... ... Furthermore, a
snake will be broken to pieces rather than pass through betony, which
... marvelously strengthens all the five senses.
Physicians of Myddvai, 788
Stachys in the Nine Herbs Charm
Šeos wyrt že man
betonicam nemneš heo byž cennež on mędum 7 on clęnum
dunlandum . 7 on gefrižedum stowum . seo deah gehwaewer žaes mannes sawle
ge his lichoman hio hyne scyldeš
with unhyrum nihtgengum ...
žu hi scealt
niman on agustes month butan irerne. 7
žy hi genumene
hębbe . ahwyre
ža moldan of .
žęt hyse nanwiht ...žonne drig hi on
Anglo-Saxon Herbal CLXXV
This wort that people name betony is
grown in meadows and on clean downlands and in shady places. It is good
whether for one’s soul or one’s body. It protects against fearful night
visitors ...you should harvest it in the month of August, without iron.
And when you have gathered it, shake off the soil and then dry the plant in the shade very thoroughly
Anglo-Saxon Herbal, II.i
Iron, perhaps because its acquisition is
possible only through the use of esoteric knowledge in combination with
intensely hot flame, has long been believed to have magic powers. Many
cultures have venerated smiths as wizards, and given them a special place in
their mythologies. The fairy folk were repelled by iron; likewise the use of
iron tools to gather herbs is frequently forbidden.
lenden ece genim betonican
swilce twegen penegas
twegen bollan full
sele niht festig
For sciatica, take betony,
as much as two pennies’
weight, add thereto
two bowls full of sweet wine,
with hot water,
give it to drink
after his night’s
Leechbook, I. xxii
In short, betony was believed to be a most
remarkable herb, one that was particularly valued for treating diseases of the
eyes, the head, and the stomach.
Today, the leaves and flowers of betony (but not the root)
continue to be used in both herbal and homeopathic medicine for headaches and
neuralgia, as well as for diarrhea and other digestive upsets. It is said to
have both sedative and antispasmodic properties. But whether you use this pretty
medieval flower for healing the body, or simply grow it to soothe your soul, it
is a plant worthy of a place in your garden.|
Please note: Many plants have
been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as
one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses
are discussed here. However, common sense
requires that you consult your family physician or other
health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal
purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-)
self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine
than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies
should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be
sought before using any herbal remedy.