Betony

Scientific Name(s): Stachys officinalis (L.) Trevisan. Family: Lamiaceae (mints)

Common Name(s): Betony , wood betony , and bishop wort . The genus is often collectively referred to as hedge-nettles .

Uses

Betony is used as an astringent to treat diarrhea and as a gargle or tea for mouth and throat irritations. It has been used to treat anxiety and headaches.

Dosing

There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of betony.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

No data.

Toxicology

Overdosage can cause stomach irritation, and betony should not be taken during pregnancy.

Botany

Betony is a square-stemmed, mat-forming perennial of the mint family. It is distributed widely throughout western and southern Europe. It has a rosette of hairy leaves and a dense terminal spike of pink, white or purple flowers that bloom from June to September. The plant reaches a height of 1 meter, and the above-ground parts are dried and used medicinally. It is native to Europe and is often cultivated as a garden ornamental. 1 , 2 It was also referred to as Betonica officinalis L. in some older texts.

History

Few plants have as widespread a history as betony. Its use has been known since the Roman Empire, where it was considered a panacea for practically every disease. During the Middle Ages, the plant was ascribed magical powers. 3

Today the plant continues to be used in traditional medicine. A weak infusion is sometimes taken as a tea. It is used as an astringent to treat diarrhea and as a gargle or tea for irritations of the mouth and throat. It has been given to treat anxiety and has been given as a tincture or smoked for the treatment of headache. 4 The name “betony” may derive from the Celtic form of “bew” (a head) and “ton” (good). 5

Chemistry

Betony contains about 15% tannins, which account for its astringency. A mixture of flavonoid glycosides has been isolated and found to have hypotensive properties. In addition to tannins, betony contains stachydrine, which is a systolic depressant and active against rheumatism. The plant contains about 0.5% betaine along with small amounts of numerous other compounds, none of which contribute to the activity of the plant. 4 A report lists six new phenylethanoid glycosides from the aerial parts of the plant. Phenylethanoid glycosides formerly known include acetoside, campneosides, forsythoside B and leucosceptoside B. 6

Uses and Pharmacology

Diarrhea

The high tannin content of the plant most likely contributes to the antidiarrheal effect. In large doses, the plant may have a purgative and emetic action.

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of betony as an antidiarrheal.

Sedative

Betony possesses sedative properties, relieving nervous stress and tension. It is still used as a remedy for headache and facial pain. In combination with herbs such as comfrey or linden, betony is effective for sinus headache and congestion. 2

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of betony as a sedative.

Other uses

Treatment of nosebleeds; used as a gargle for its positive effect on gums, mouth and throat; and treatment of diarrhea and irritations of mucous membranes. A powder of the dried pulverized leaves has been used to induce sneezing. 7 Folk remedies of betony include treatment of tumors, spleen and liver sclerosis, colds, convulsions, kidney stones, palpitations, stomachache and toothaches. 4 Betony is known to stimulate the digestive system and the liver, which may support some of these claims. 2

Dosage

There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of betony.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

Although there is little documented evidence of betony toxicity, caution suggests that overdosage may cause gastrointestinal irritation because of the tannin content. 4 Betony polyphenols were found to be toxic in animals. 8 Betony should not be taken during pregnancy. 2

Bibliography

1. Bremness L. The Complete Book of Herbs . London, England: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 1988;278.
2. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY: DK Publishing, 1996:270.
3. Tyler VE. The New Honest Herbal . Philadelphia, PA: GF Stickley Co., 1987.
4. Duke J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc., 1989;457.
5. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/betowo35.html .
6. Miyase T, et al. Phytochemistry 1996;43(2):475-79.
7. Schauenberg P, Paris F. Guide to Medicinal Plants. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing Inc., 1977.
8. Lipkan G, et al. Farmatsevtychnyi Zhurnal 1974;29(1):78–81.

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