Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Betony (Stachys officinalis)


Betony, scientifically known as Stachys officinalis, is a perennial plant that is part of the Lamiaceae family. The plant typically grows to a height of about 30 to 60 cm. It is characterized by its flower heads, which are oblong compared to the more pyramidal form of most Stachys species, and typically measure about 3 cm across. The flowers are bi-lobed, bright reddish-purple or magenta in color, and are about 12 to 18 mm long. Betony’s basal leaves are narrow and toothed, and the flower heads are borne on almost leafless stems.

Geographical Distribution:

Betony is native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. It is fairly common across most of southern England and Wales but is absent from northern Britain and most of Ireland, except the far southwest. Like many plants used in herbal remedies, Betony has been introduced to many other temperate regions.


Betony shows a preference for dryish light soils and is commonly found in sunny banks, hedgerows, heathlands, and other grassy places, including the undisturbed margins of arable fields. It is also a common sight in old country churchyards, where it was historically planted with the belief that it had powers to ward off ghosts and other unwelcome entities.

Blooming Times:

In Britain and Ireland, Betony typically blooms from late June until the end of September.


Historically, Betony was used for various medicinal and magical purposes. The Romans utilized it to treat headaches, and during the Middle Ages, it was believed to offer protection against witchcraft.


The genus name “Stachys” means ‘spike of flowers’, which is indicative of the plant’s flower formation. The specific epithet “officinalis” suggests that this plant was recognized for its valuable pharmaceutical and medicinal properties.


Betony is not specifically detailed in terms of horticultural practices, but given its preference for light soils and sunny locations, it can be inferred that it thrives in well-drained soil and full to partial sunlight. Its ability to grow in various grassy and open woodland areas indicates a degree of hardiness and adaptability.


1. “Stachys officinalis, Betony: identification, distribution, habitat” –


History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Betony (Stachys officinalis)


Betony, known botanically as Stachys officinalis, has a rich history in traditional medicine and folklore. It was highly regarded by the Greeks and later by the Romans, who believed it to be a cure for forty-seven different diseases. An old Italian proverb, “Sell your coat and buy Betony,” and a Spanish saying, “He has as many virtues as Betony,” reflect the high value placed on its remedial properties.

In medieval times, Betony was cultivated in physic gardens of apothecaries and monasteries and was believed to have powers against evil spirits. It was often planted in churchyards and used as an amulet or charm against supernatural entities. The belief in its protective qualities against evil spirits and its efficacy in treating various ailments was deeply ingrained in popular estimation.

Traditional Herbal Uses:

Betony was once considered a panacea for all ills, particularly those related to the head and nervous system. It was used to treat headaches, neuralgia, anxiety, and hysteria. The herb was also thought to have astringent, alterative, and tonic properties, making it useful in dyspepsia, rheumatism, scrofula, and blood impurities.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Betony was also believed to have magical properties. It was thought to protect against witchcraft and evil spirits, and there were superstitions that serpents would fight each other if placed within a ring of Betony. It was also believed that wild animals would seek out the herb if wounded.

Culinary Uses:

While primarily known for its medicinal properties, Betony was also used in culinary applications. The leaves were sometimes used as a substitute for tea. Betony tea, made by pouring boiling water over the dried herb, was consumed for its health benefits and pleasant taste. The herb was also smoked in a mixture with other plants for relieving headaches.

Medicinal Action and Uses:

Betony was renowned for its nervine and tonic properties. It was a popular remedy for nervous headaches, palpitations, and all nervous affections. The herb was also used as an aromatic, astringent, and alterative agent. It was believed to be beneficial for the digestive system and was used in combination with other remedies as a tonic for dyspepsia.


1. “A Modern Herbal | Betony, Wood” –


Pharmacological/Medicinal Studies on Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Betony (Stachys officinalis) has been the subject of various pharmacological and medicinal studies, highlighting its potential in traditional and modern medicine.

Key Findings from Scientific Studies:

1. Phenolic Compounds Accumulation: A study focused on the accumulation of phenolic compounds in the purple betony herb (Stachys officinalis L.) originated from cultivation. The research aimed to determine the effects of plant age and harvest term on yield and quality in cultivation conditions. The study found that the mass of the herb increased from the beginning of vegetation up to seed setting. The highest content of tannins was found in the herb collected at the vegetative stage. Phenolic acids and flavonoids, including chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic, and rosmarinic acids, were identified, with caffeic acid and apigenin being the dominant compounds (

2. Nectar Production in Different Habitats: Another study analyzed nectar production in wood betony grown under different microclimatic habitat conditions. It evaluated the influence of microclimatic parameters on the secretion process and nectar sugar concentration. The study found that nectar secretion varied as a function of microclimatic habitat conditions and did not reveal a close relationship between these conditions and sugar concentration in nectar (

3. Management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A clinical trial compared the efficacy and safety of the aerial parts of wood betony with Medroxyprogesterone acetate in managing abnormal uterine bleeding due to PCOS. The study concluded that aerial parts of wood betony may be used as an alternative for Medroxyprogesterone acetate in the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding caused by PCOS (

4. Chemical Constituents and Biological Activities: A review described the chemical constituents and biological activities of some Iranian Stachys species, including Stachys officinalis. The review highlighted the various chemical components and their associated biological activities, underscoring the medicinal potential of these species ((a118e582e0151014213165b813ca33d98de24b2b)).


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The phytochemical composition of Betony (Stachys officinalis) has been explored in several studies. Here are the specific individual molecules identified in Betony:

1. Caffeic Acid: This compound is a well-known phenolic acid, often found in various plants. It has been identified in Betony and is known for its antioxidant properties.

2. Glycosides of O-Apigenin: Apigenin is a flavonoid, and its glycosides (sugar-bound forms) have been detected in Betony. These compounds are known for their potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

3. Glycosides of O-Quercetin: Similar to apigenin, quercetin is another flavonoid, and its glycosides are present in Betony. Quercetin is recognized for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Glycosides of C-Apigenin: This is another form of apigenin glycoside found in Betony, contributing to its pharmacological activities.

5. Tannins as Pyrogallol: Pyrogallol is a type of tannin, a class of astringent, polyphenolic biomolecules. It has been identified in Betony and is known for its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

6. Chlorogenic Acid: This is another type of phenolic acid found in Betony. Chlorogenic acid is known for its antioxidant activity and potential health benefits.

7. Phenylethanoid Glycosides: These are a group of compounds that have been identified in Betony, known for their antioxidant properties.

8. Hydroxycinnamic Acid Derivative: This derivative is part of the larger family of hydroxycinnamic acids, known for their antioxidant activities.

9. Rosmarinic Acid: Found in Betony, rosmarinic acid is a compound known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

10. Orientin: This is a flavonoid compound identified in Betony, known for its antioxidant properties.

11. Luteolin-7-Glucoside: A flavonoid glycoside, luteolin-7-glucoside has been detected in Betony and is recognized for its health-promoting properties.

12. Apigenin-7-Glucoside: Another flavonoid glycoside found in Betony, known for its antioxidant effects.

13. Apigenin-3-Glucoside: This is a variant of apigenin glycoside present in Betony, contributing to its pharmacological profile.

14. Apigenin: A flavonoid compound, apigenin is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities.

15. Ferulic Acid: This is another phenolic acid found in Betony, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


1. “Antioxidant properties and phenolic composition of wood betony (Betonica officinalis L., syn. Stachys officinalis L.)” –
2. “Accumulation of phenolic compounds in the purple betony herb (Stachys officinalis L.) originated from cultivation” –
3. “Comparative study of wood betony (Stachys officinalis L) melliferousness in different habitat conditions” –


Contraindications and Safety of Betony (Stachys officinalis)


Betony, scientifically known as Stachys officinalis, is a perennial plant of the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is widely distributed throughout western and southern Europe and is used for various medicinal purposes. The aboveground parts of the plant are dried and utilized in medicine.

Uses and Effectiveness:

Betony is traditionally used for a range of conditions including digestion problems, respiratory issues, pain management, urinary tract conditions, stress, tension, nervousness, and epilepsy. However, the effectiveness of betony for these uses lacks substantial scientific evidence.

Contraindications and Precautions:

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There is insufficient reliable information about the safety of taking betony during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is advised to avoid its use during these periods.
Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): Betony may lower blood pressure, potentially causing it to drop too low in individuals prone to hypotension.
Surgery: Due to its potential effects on blood pressure, betony might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. It is recommended to stop using betony at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Medications for High Blood Pressure: Betony might enhance the blood pressure-lowering effects of antihypertensive drugs, leading to hypotension.

Side Effects and Toxicology:

Side Effects: The primary known side effect of betony is stomach upset in some individuals.
Toxicology: Overdosage of betony may cause stomach irritation, primarily due to its tannin content. However, detailed toxicological data is limited.


The appropriate dose of betony depends on various factors like age, health, and other conditions. Currently, there is insufficient scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for betony.


1. “Betony: Health Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, Dose & Precautions” –
2. “Betony Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Herbal Database” –