Saturday, August 15, 2015

Betony - Stachys Officilinalis

Betony or Stachy Offinalis, the first wild flower to strike the eye in Plantlife's PDF, intriguingly it has magic restorative powers against the elf-sickness according to Anglo-Saxon medicine and magic.  I 
had been looking for the Coronation Meadows, mentioned last week on Country file, and whether Yorkshire had one, well maybe not an official one but Lower Winskill Farm in Ribblesdale seems to fit the bill.

"Stachys officinalis3". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - 
Well maybe I have not seen it around here but it's history stems from as early as Roman, and a prayer to this plant goes as follows;

"Betony, you who were discovered first by Aesculapius or by Chiron the centaur, hear my prayer, I implore you herb of strength, by him who ordered your creation and ordered that you might be useful for a multitude of remedies.  Kindly help in making these seven and forty remedies"

And then there is this medical poem from the 14th Century.....


At Betonye I wyll be-gynne
That many vertewys hath hym with-inne.

Even Culpeper sings its praises as to curing a whole host of ailments, but Grigson, my source for the above information says that it is a fraud with no outstanding virtue of any kind but that it does make a good imitation  Chinese green tea.

Of course 'stachys' in its name brings to mind the soft grey leaves of the stachys/rabbits ears plant in the garden, a calming plant that is good as an understorey to more vibrant coloured flowers. Apparently it comes from the Greek;  Greek word σταχυς (stachys), meaning "an ear of grain", and refers to the fact that the inflorescence is often a spike.
This Wiki entry goes on to refer to the generic plant's name as woundwort, which would give it added justification as a healing herb...

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