Herb Profile: Self Heal

prunella-vulgarisBotanical Name: Prunella vulgaris

Family: Lamiaceae  (Mint Family)

Common Names: Self Heal, All Heal, Sicklewort, Hook Heal, Carpenter’s Herb, Pickpocket, Poverty Pink, Heart o’ the Earth

Identification: A sparsely downy perennial herb with creeping runners and erect flower stems to 20cm tall. Not aromatic. Leaves are decussate, stalked, oval, widest at the base. Infloresence in a dense oblong head, with hairy and purplish bracts. Purple flowers with sepals fused into one tube with only the tips separate – like two lips. 3 short teeth above and 2 longer ones below. Upper lip very concave. Flowers June to October.

Parts Used: Aerial Parts

Edibility & Nutrition: Self Heal is edible and its leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked.

Growing & Harvesting: Very common in the British Isles in grasslands, woodlands & wastelands.  Research has shown it to be more potent when harvested earlier in its season i.e. in summer rather than autumn.

Qualities: Cooling, Diffusive

Medicinal Actions: Astringent, Demulcent, Vulnerary, Anti-inflammatory, Lymphatic, Anti Viral, Diaphoretic, Immunomodulator, Anti Oxidant, Hypotensive prunella-vulgaris-gewone-brunel-03677

Uses:

  • It can be used as an astringent gargle for sore throats and a mouthwash for ulcers and bleeding gums
  • Externally, Self Heal can be used as a wound healer to stop bleeding from cuts, and reduce swellings of bites & stings
  • It has an affinity for the lymphatic system and can be taken for swollen glands, mumps, glandular fever, mastistis, nodules, cancer or other lingering infections
  • Recent studies have found Self Heal to be an excellent anti viral effective against Herpes & Human Papilloma Virus, and also a broad range anti bacterial
  • It has a normalising action on the thyroid, stimulating an underactive thyroid and reducing an overactive one
  • As an immunomodulator Self Heal can improve seasonal allergies and chronic inflammatory conditions

History & Folklore:

  • The Latin name ‘Prunella’ came from the German Brunella meaning ‘quinsy’ – or a tonsular abscess which Self Heal was considered a specific treatment for this
  • According to the Doctrine of Signatures Self Heal’s flowers resemble mouths with swollen throat glands, and from the side they appear to be a hooked tool – these ‘signatures’ gave the herb its use as a wound healer and for throat complaints.
  • Its country names of Pickpocket or Poverty Pink were references to the fact that it can be an indicator of poor soil – it can tolerate very nutrient poor conditions

prunella-vulgaris-2Preparations: Self Heal leaves & flowers can be added to salads and eaten raw. It can be made into an infused oil for use topically in creams and ointments, or prepared as a tea or tincture for internal use.

Recommended Doses:

Tea: 1-2 tsp of the dried herb per cup of hot water Steep 1 hour. Take two to three cups per day.

Tincture: 1:2 fresh extract, 30% alcohol, 40-60 drops, (2-3 ml), 3 times per day

Active Constituents: Bitters, Rosmarinic Acid, Volatile Oils, Alkaloids, Mucilage, Polysaccharides

Cautions: Self Heal is generally very safe and well tolerated. Concurrent use at therapeutic doses alongside blood thinning medications is not recommended without supervision of a medical practitioner.

References:

Barker, Julian (2001) The Medicinal Flora of Britain & Northwest Europe, Winter Press

Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal Online http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/selfhe40.html

Rose, Frances (2006) The Wild Flower Key (2nd Edition)

De La Floret, Rosalee – Herbal Remedies Advice Online http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/self-heal-herb.html

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