Self Heal

The great herbalist John Gerard is quoted as saying this, "There is a not a better wound herb in the world than that of self-heal." A bold statement? Yes.  But he was on to something.  According to various medical texts, documentation and folk lore, the wound healing plant Prunella vulgaris somehow found its way to the Quinault Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, Ancient Chinese Medicine during the Han Dynasty (circa 200 B.C.), even German military physicians used self-heal during the 16th century. 

Prunella vulgaris

Prunella vulgaris


 How could so many diverse cultures, in different centuries, know about Self-Heal?  The exact answer to this question is not known.  But they knew that Self-Heal was a natural wound healer and antibiotic.  Self-Heal is a vigorous grower, to the point it is considered a nuisance.  It is native to Europe and Asia, but made its way around to most of Earth's temperate regions.  Left to the elements, it self-seeds very efficiently, taking over a lawn, garden bed, or open space very quickly.  Some consider Self-Heal to be an aggressive garden weed. But to an herbalist, this abundance just means more medicine.  The aerial parts of this plant contain tannins which help to stop bleeding, and calm inflammation.  In TCM, Self- Heal is prescribed to cool "liver fire." The other main constituents of Self-Heal are considered antibiotic and anti-septic, even anti-viral.  Studies have shown that Prunella may stop a virus from growing within cells, and prevent a virus from binding to cells. 

Description: Hardy perennial, vigorous growth.  Height 2-12 in.  Clusters of blue/purple flowers all summer.

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Constituents: triterpenes, tannins, rutin,  rosmarinic acid, Vitamins B, C, K

Actions: Astringent, wound healer, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral, bitter tonic, hepatic

Medicinal Uses: Gargle for sore throat, apply as a poultice to cuts, abrasions, boils, burns.  May ease diarrhea.  Slows or stops bleeding both externally or internally. Consume to reduce symptoms of seasonal allergies. 

Preparations:  Fresh plant poultice applied to skin.  Fresh plant tincture 1:2.  Young leaves are edible (salads, soups, stews).  An infusion can be made from aerial parts.

Precautions: None known

Cultivation:  Grow in full sun to partial shade.  Very easy to establish.  To prevent self-seeding be sure to deadhead after flowering.  To sow from seeds, plant in the Fall.  When harvesting for medicine, harvest aerial parts when in flower.