Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis)
This perennial plant grows up to 16 inches. The leaves are alternate. Each leaf has many lobes or is finely divided (almost fernlike). These wild flowers often grow in large
colonies with foliage starting as a wine color in early spring turning green in the summer. The flowers are irregular in shape and about 1 inch long.
Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort or Snapdragon family)
Other Names: Canadian Lousewort, Common Lousewort
Flowers: April- June
Parts Used: Whole plant
Habitat: Wood Betony wild flowers grow in acid soils on dry open woodlands, ridges, prairies, and along mossy slopes bordering streams; from Maine and Quebec to Manitoba, south to Florida, Texas, and Mexico.
History: Native Americans ate the leaves collected early in the season in soup or as a green like spinach and put the chopped root into the food they gave to their pony to fatten it and make it vicious to all but it’s owner. They considered the root a love charm. Sometimes young men would carry the root when they intended to make advances on a potential lover. It was secretly put in the food as an aphrodisiac.
The names come from the old world belief that livestock that grazed on this plant would get lice. They would get lice, but not from anything they ate.
A root tea was used by Native Americans for internal swellings and a root poultice for external swellings. Also used for digestive problems and in cough medicines. Early herbal healers considered the entire plant a tonic, sedative, and astringent.
Preparation and Dosages:
Standard Infusion: 4 to 8 ounces, up to three times a day.
Tincture: [Fresh Plant, 1:2, Dry Plant, 1:5, 50% alcohol] 1 to 2 teaspoons, up to three times a day.