Some members of the Lamiaceae part 1

Betony with Hummingbird Moth

This family of the Lamiacea or the Dead-nettle family (family 118, p. 611 in St.) is one of my favourites for the flowers and herbs it gives us. The insects and in particular the bees also love it for the nectar the flower provides.

It is a large family in the B.I. with 27 genera. To identify to genus level, Stace has split them into 8 groups. Not all genera are native but may be garden escapes.  As it too large for one week I will spread this family into 3 separate blogs and weeks.

To make life even easier for identifying the plants the taxonomists also have sub divided this large family world-wide into 4 Subfamilies, where again the genera in those groups have similar characters. This is the whole idea about classification to make sense to all that variety out there!

To summarize, I will place only the native as well as Archyophytes into those, so numbers missing below are not native:

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SUBFAMILY 1: LAMIOIDEAE (1-10)1) Stachys or Woundworts with 6 species, 2) Betonica officinalis or Betony        3) Ballota nigra or Black Horehound, 4) Leonorus cardiaca or Motherwort (not native but formerly grown medicinally), 5) Lamiastrum galeobdolon or Yellow Archangel, 6) Lamium or Dead-nettles with 6 species all surprisingly archyophytes, 7) Galeopsis or Hemp-nettles with 5 species whereby 2 native and rest archyophyte, 9) Melittis melissophyllum or Bastard balm, 10) Marrubium vulgare or White Horehound.


11) Scutellaria or Skullcaps with three species.

Uses: Mainly medicinal so the following information comes from the very useful book by Julian Barker: The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe. (pages 364 -393)  For clarity I will use the order as above in Stace rather than the order in this book. There are many difficult medical terms for which links are provided if you wish to know more about this.

1) Stachys sylvatica (Hedge Woundwort) & S. palustris (Marsh Woundwort)   Uses: Internally taken for period pains.

 2) Betonica officinalis or  Betony.                                                                                                     Action: Sedative and antispasmodic. Bitter. Choleretic.                                                Uses: Headaches (tension and anxiety) and head pains. Vertigo. Wound herb. Henri Leclerc recommends it against sores and varicose ulcers.

3) Ballota nigra or Black Horehound                                                                                               Action: Antiemetic. Sedative.                                                                                                            Uses: Nausea. Vomiting. Nervous dyspepsia. Migraine. Travel sickness (in combination with Peppermint) and sickness of early pregnancy (combined with Chamomile). Tinnitus.

4) Leonorus cardiaca or Motherwort (not native but indispensable remedy according to Barker)                                                                                                                              Action: Cardiac tonic. Hypotensive. Mild sedative and antispasmodic. Uterine stimulant.                                                                                                                                                             Uses: Nausea. Simple tachycardia.  Palpitations. Anxiety (especially if these symptoms are associated with the menopause). ‘Nervous indigestion’. Used extensively with other remedies for dysmenorrhoea and also in the management of hypertension. Long tradition for use in anxiety late in pregnancy.

5) Lamiastrum galeobdolon or Yellow Archangel,                                                             Several of its varieties are used as an ornamental groundcover in shade where it can spread rapidly.

6) Lamium or Dead-nettles. Greek laimus for throats, meaning that of the corolla. Lamium album or White deadnettle                                                                                          Action: Astringent and Haemostatic (especially tonic to uterine circulation). Anti-inflammatory. Demulcent and mild sedative. Expectorant ad anti-catarral. Uses: Dysmenorrhoea, Menorrhagia. Leucorrhoea. Beningn prostatic hypertrophy. Bladder disorders. Anaemia. Mild insomnia. Upper respiratory catarrh. Said to be of use in bronchitis. Topically for wounds.

Young tips can be eaten in salads or cooked as a spinach.

7) Galeopsis or Hemp-nettles;                                                                                                     G. tetrahit, G. ladonum & G. segetum.                                                                                            Uses: Fresh flowering tops for remineralising, and of benefit in iron deficiency anaemia. High in silicate. Useful in chronic respiratory disorders. Galeopsis is Greek and means weasel like, from the open mouth of the corolla or could also be from the Latin galea for helmet. with 5 species whereby 2 native and rest archyophyte,

9) Melittis melissophyllum or Bastard balm                                                                            Attractive looking plant but with a bad smell. An old medicinal herb for anxiety, insomnia and nervous indigestion. As an antimicrobial, an eye-bath with a strong infusion is good for complicated conjunctivitis. Note:- It contains coumarins which should never be taken with anticoagulant drugs!

10)Marrubium vulgare or White Horehound.                                                                               Marob (= bitter in Hebrew). Horehound is from the Old English, har hune (= white and hoary; nothing to do with dogs). It has been used for 2000 years as a cough remedy.                                                                                                                                            Action: Expectorant. Spasmolytic. Antimicrobial. Astringent and bitter tonic.   Uses: Acute or chronic bronchitis with non-productive cough. Sore throats. Combines well with Coltsfoot, Cowslip and Marshmallow leaf in painful cough and with Cowslip and Fresh Ginger in Whooping Cough.

11) Scutellaria or Skullcaps. Scutellaria galericulata.  Found a really interesting website here:  The skullcap owes its name to the shape of the blossom, which resembles the human skull.

This Common Skullcap should not be confused with its family types of Skullcaps, like the Marsh Skullcap or the Hooded Skullcap. They have quite different medical uses and effects. There are over 200 different types which are similar, but slightly different. As you can read on Wikipedia: “Blue skullcap (S. lateriflora) is accepted as the “skullcap” used in traditional North American medicine, however common skullcap shares many of the same active chemicals and is used as a substitute in Britain and Europe.

Action: The herb is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, febrifuge, nervine and strongly tonic. In the home an infusion is sometimes used in the treatment of throat infections. The plant is harvested in the summer as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use. This plant is rarely if ever used in herbal medicine, though it is said to have the same applications as          S. lateriflora. These applications are: Skullcap was traditionally used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous conditions including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillisers, and neuralgia. An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation; it should not be given to pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage. This plant should be used with some caution since in excess it causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching.

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