It’s difficult today to appreciate just how important betony was to apothecary healers. This herb, with its dainty reddish/violet flower spikes, was thought to cure everything from headaches to snake bites. The Romans listed betony as a cure for 47 different illnesses and its name came from bewton, Celtic for “good head”. It’s found in woods and grassland, by canal towpaths and a surprising amount of churchyards, where it used to be planted as a protection against evil. Medieval healers thought it could cure someone of ‘elf shot’, when people were thought to have been made ill after being shot by elves’ invisible arrows. It was drunk in tea to drive away devils and despair and worn around the neck as a charm. Its use continued over the centuries. In the early 20th century, it was used to ease symptoms of headaches, nerves and anxiety – it naturally contains compounds that lower blood pressure. It’s recorded as being used during the Second World War as a topical treatment for burns in pilots. Harvest when it blooms in July and August and dry the leaves and flowers to make tea. (NB: do not use if pregnant).