Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) has been used for centuries in folk medicine. It is easy to find in the Ozarks right now because it is blooming. Look for the small purple flowers on a small plant 12-18 inches tall. They are common along roadsides, fence rows, field edges, and other places where growing conditions are favorable.
Usually, when you find self-heal you will find a lot of the plants. This is because, in addition to reproducing by seeds, this plant also has the ability to spread by rooting anywhere the stem touches the ground.
It is known by many other names. A few of them include:
- Carpenter’s Herb
- All Heal
- Wound wort
- Blue Curls
Self-heal has been used since ancient times both for food and medicinal purposes. Native Americans cooked and ate the young leaves. The whole plant is edible, so it can be used added to dishes or as a potherb. The leaves and flowers can be dried and used to make a tea which is said to help reduce inflammation in the body and help repair the digestive system. It was used in medieval times to treat wounds and also to prevent biofilms in the oral cavity that leads to tooth damage and gingivitis. Modern medicine is finding some of these folk uses to have merit, but more studies are needed. Below are a few of the purported benefits of self-heal. To read more about this plant follow the link.
Self-heal Uses As Food
As mentioned, this plant in the mint family has been used throughout historical times for food. Native Americans would cook the leaves and consume them along with other wild plants. The entire plant is edible and the taste has been described as similar to romaine lettuce.
The plant blooms from May to August which makes it much easier to identify. The younger plants are the most desirable as far as taste is concerned. The leaves, stems and flowers can be used raw in salads, as well as being added to dishes where greens are desirable. They can be cooked and eaten alone too.
The leaves and flowers are also gathered, dried and crushed into a powder to make an appetizing tea which is both tasty and has benefits for your health.
The plant contains Vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains amounts of thiamine, a B complex vitamin, as well as flavonoids, tannins, and rutin. This may explain the astringent effects of the plant as well as the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Gathering and consuming this plant can be good for your health, and it has a low risk profile for most people as far as allergies are concerned. But some people have reported being allergic, so don’t use it if you have allergies to plants in the mint family. It should also be avoided by women who are pregnant or nursing.
Medicinal Uses Of Self-heal
Self-heal has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Some of the first uses were for wound healing. It was used by medieval soldiers as a mouth rinse to help heal ulcers and prevent mouth sores from a lack of proper oral hygiene. It is still used in tea form as a home remedy for sore throat, tonsil abscess, and other mouth conditions such as ulcers or bleeding gums.
It has astringent properties which make it useful for skin conditions such as acne. It has antiviral properties and has been used as a treatment for Herpes Simplex Type 1 (think cold sores), and Herpes Simplex Type 2 (genital herpes). Studies have shown that it blocks the sites which viruses use to enter the cell, so they can’t invade the cell and use it to make copies of itself. This can be of great benefit when you are fighting a cold or the flu.
It has styptic properties which means when applied to wounds it helps to stop bleeding. It encourages cell regeneration, so it helps with wound healing too.
The anti-inflammatory properties of Self-heal can help decrease inflammation in the body when taken internally whether consumed raw or as a tea. Since inflammation has been linked to many disease processes having a natural anti-inflammatory you can turn to can help to keep you healthy.
Another helpful effect of this amazing herb is that it stimulates the lymphatic system. This can help you when you have swollen lymph nodes due to illness. It helps just as well to promote the movement of excess fluid from the lower extremities. When you add this to the astringent and diaphoretic properties you get effects that can help you eliminate excess fluid from your body, which can help to lower your blood pressure too.
We talked above about the antiviral properties, but I failed to mention that it also has antibacterial properties. This can prevent infections in wounds and other sores. It has been shown to help prevent biofilm formation, so it is helpful to prevent tooth plaques and the tooth decay and gingivitis that accompany it.
As you can see, this common herb has a host of beneficial properties that you can make use of. As always, be sure you can be totally confident of your identification before attempting to make use of any wild plants. Some plants have toxic look-alikes that can make you ill or cause death.
If you want to see more information on other wild edible and medicinal plants that are found in the Ozarks you can read some of our other articles. Links are below:
For more information about other wild medicinal plants and essential oils you can visit our list of articles.
Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as medical advice. The health information in this article is not intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise a cure for any medical condition. Consult with your health care professional before considering any natural supplement or plant remedy for your health and wellness. We assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using manufactured or natural medications.