By Aidan Blank
This darling plant has kept me intrigued since I was first introduced to it growing in my teacher’s herb garden a decade ago. It was sometime afterwards that I was able to experience the tea, and I remember feeling a distinct expressive calm radiating from my center. Drinking it again as I write I sense why it was commonly employed as a reliable and comforting ‘proper’ tea substitute; “it has somewhat the taste of tea and all the good qualities of it, without the bad ones” – Maude Grieves. It is very smooth, pungent, nutritive, slightly moistening, and astringing at the same time. It has a decidedly calming effect in general and on the stomach in particular. In stronger infusions I can sense a slight acridity in the back of my throat that I have come to associate with some of it’s more magical or mysterious actions. Wood Betony also appears to have the curious effect of increasing my dream recall; the dreams are more lucid and often include the appearance of a benevolent being or ally. William Salmon, writing in early 16th century England, describes one of Wood Betony’s actions as “incarnative “. I believe that this accurately and evocatively sums up the central movement of the plant. It is a superlative remedy for bringing one back into their body and becoming reacquainted with the older instinctual knowing residing in the solar plexus, or ‘gut’. I lived for a time with a boy, then 6 or 7 years old, who experienced frequent stomach cramping and general nausea. This often concurred with a debilitating headache that left him lying on the couch for long periods of time in a detached state. His energy felt hot (like many children), ungrounded, and stuck in his head. Tincture of Wood Betony quickly brought these fluctuations to a minimum and eventually they were undetectable. Best of all he seemed to love the tincture and touted it as his personal remedy, or maybe even a constitutional ally. Wood Betony has served likewise for me when I have had need of it.