Selfheal (prunella vulgaris)

Selfheal is a perennial wildflower providing good groundcover.  Member of the Mint family.   Purple-violet flowers.  Meadow plant.   Flowers May to September.  Height about 1 – 2 ft (30 – 60 cm).   Also found in scrub, grasslands and wood clearings.   The plant’s name comes from the medieval German “brunella”, derived from “die bruen” – an affliction of the mouth for which this plant was a remedy.  The plant was thought to resemble a throat so, therefore, it followed that it should be used for treating throat problems.  Folk lore tells us that it  should be gathered when the Dog Star is rising. 

It used to be believed that Self-heal was a holy herb sent by God to cure all kinds of diseases, both of man and beast.  It is said to drive away the devil.  Some native American Indian tribes made a tea from the roots, which they drank before hunting to help sharpen their observational powers. 

Chinese medicinal herb used for disorders of the liver.  Called xu ku cao in Chinese herbalism and is still widely used there to treat conjunctivitis, swollen neck glands and mastitis. Used for treating wounds, cuts and bruises.  It can be used in salads and stews and a drink can be made from the leaves.  Has anti-bacterial properties.  Can be used externally for sores, burns and piles.  Research has shown that Self-heal can help to lower blood pressure and has antibiotic effects on some organisms causing enteritis and urinary infections, and hard to heal wounds.  Used in homeopathy for colitis.  Crushed leaves can be made into a poultice for wounds.

Caution – this is not a prescription for use! Always check with a specialst in herbal medicine before using.

Bees are the plant’s main feeders – a ring of hairs inside the flowers prevents small insects from taking the nectar but not from pollinating.  It is also a butterfly plant.   Honey lies at the bottom of the corolla tube and protected from tiny insects by a thick hedge of hairs above it.  Only bees can fertilise the plant by landing on the lower lip and thrusting their tongues down the tube.  At the same time, the anthers drop their pollen on the bee’s head.  The corolla resembles a hook and so the plant was thought to heal wounds incurred from sickle and scythe.

Plant in sun or shade. 

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