- Heal All Herb
- Prunella Vulgaris Herb Uses
- Prunella vulgaris – Selfheal
- Blooming Times
- Similar Species
- Where & How to grow SelfHeal Prunella Vulgaris
- Selfheal ( Prunella Vulgaris)
- Weeds of Australia – Biosecurity Queensland Edition Fact Sheet
- Scientific Name
- Common Names
- Naturalised Distribution
- Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris), White Form
- The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
- Herb to Know: Self-Heal
- Self HealBotanical Name: Prunella vulgaris
Heal All Herb
Prunella Vulgaris picture by Karen Bergeron (c) 2006
Prunella Vulgaris Herb Uses
Prunella Vulgaris is edible and used as a herb. It can be used in salads, soups, stews, or boiled as a pot herb. Heal All has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries on just about every continent in the world, and for just about every ailment known to man, Heal-All is something of a panacea, it does seem to have some herbal uses that are constant.
Recent research shows that application of Prunella Vulgaris is helpful in controlling herpes outbreaks in mice, .
List of Links to Prunella Vulgaris Clinical Studies
Prunella’s most useful constituents are Betulinic-acid, D-Camphor, Delphinidin, Hyperoside, Manganese, Oleanolic-acid, Rosmarinic-acid, Rutin, Ursolic-acid, and Tannins. The whole plant is said to be alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary.
A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves is a very tasty and refreshing beverage, weak infusion of the plant is used as an eye wash for sties and pinkeye. Prunella is taken internally as a herbal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart. Clinical analysis shows it to have an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of pseudomonas, Bacillus typhi, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculi, which supports its use as an alternative medicine internally and externally as an antibiotic and for hard to heal wounds and diseases. It is showing promise in research for herpes, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and many other maladies.
Prunella : Herbal Remedy May Help Combat Endometriosis and Cancer
Prunella Vulgaris is one of the latest herbs making headlines as a natural treatment for herpes. Next to Jewelweed and possibly Ginseng, this is the herb I am most asked about lately.
Prunella Vulgaris Salve and Liquid Wash
Prunella, Natural Herpes Cure?
Buy Heal All Seeds at Seedman.com
There are no known safety issues or contraindications for using the herb Prunella Vulgaris.
Prunella Vulgaris Description and Habitat
Prunella Vulgaris is a perennial herb found throughout Europe, Asia, Japan and the U. S., (to mention a few) its origin seems to be European though it has been documented in other countries since before any history of travel. Prunella Vulgaris is found growing in waste ground, grassland, woodland edges, usually on basic and neutral soils. It seems to grow just about everywhere. Prunella grows from 1 to 2 feet high, with creeping, self-rooting, tough, square, reddish stems branching at leaf axis. Once the plant reaches any significant height, it falls over and attaches new roots to the ground if possible, much like skullcap and other herbs in the mint family. The leaves of Prunella Vulgaris are lance shaped, serrated and reddish at tip, about an 2 -3 inches long and 1 inch broad, grow on short stalks in opposite pairs down the square stem. The flowers grow from a club-like, somewhat square, whirled cluster, immediately below this club are a pair of stalkless leaves standing out on either side like a collar. Prunella flowers are two lipped and tubular, the top lip is a purple hood, and the bottom lip is often white, it has three lobes with the middle lobe being larger and fringed upwardly. Prunella Vulgaris flowers bloom at different times depending on climate and other conditions. Mostly from June to August.
Unsponsored External Links – Is Heal All Native or Exotic to the US? It’s Both!
How to Grow Prunella Vulgaris
Prunella Vulgaris thrives in any damp soil in full sun or in light shade. It will grow thicker in a part shade environment. Prunella Vulgaris is a good plant for growing in the spring meadow. Sow seed in very early spring in a flat outdoors, or give a short cold and moist conditioning treatment before sowing in a warm place. As Prunella Vulgaris is related to the mint family, it transplants and spreads easily. Some not so enlightened people might consider it a weed.
Harvesting and Using Prunella Vulgaris
Gather flowering tops, and dry in small bunches for later herb use, or tincture fresh. Store in cool, dry, dark, place for best shelf life.
Prunella Vulgaris Folklore and History
Prunella Vulgaris was once proclaimed to be a Holy herb and thought to be sent by God to cure all ailments of man or beast, and said to drive away the devil, which lead to the belief that Heal-All was grown in the Witches garden as a disguise. The root was used to make a tea to drink in ceremonies before going hunting by one Native American tribe to sharpened the powers of observation.
Prunella Herbal Tea Recipe
Herbal tea or infusion: Add 1 oz. dried or fresh herb to a pint of boiling water, steep till cool, take in cup doses, sweetened with honey, as a general immune strengthener.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
USDA Plants Database Prunella Vulgaris Info
Prunella Vulgaris by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Prunella Vulgaris Pictures
Copyright Karen Bergeron 2006 – 2016. Do not use without permission.
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Prunella vulgaris – Selfheal
Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Class: Equisetopsida – Order: Lamiales – Family: Lamiaceae
The very variable stature of Selfheal can be confusing, but the same species stands tall in wildflower meadows and yet in lawns seems able to escape decapitation by ducking down whenever the blades of a mower approach.
This downy creeping perennial rarely grows taller than 30cm and often the flower heads are no more than 5 to 10cm above the ground. The oval leaves are usually untoothed or only slightly toothed.
Box-shaped and usually oblong in side view, hardly tapering at all, the flower heads of Selfheal are very distinctive. Mostly the flowers are violet, but pink and white forms also occur, with the individual two-lobed flowers 10 to 15mm long. The upper lip is a helmet-like cowl, while the lower lip is divided into three lobes, the central lobe longer than the two side lobes.
Prunella vulgaris is widespread and common in Britain and Ireland, and this species is native to mainland Europe, Asia and North America.
Selfheal is tolerant of poor soils and grows in meadows, hedgerows and ditches. This rapid coloniser of wasteland will persist even in grassy paths, lawns and public parks that are subject to frequent walking.
The first flowers usually appear in late May or early June, and in some sheltered places Selfhealcontinues flowering until the first frosts of winter arrive, so that some years in southern Britain it is possible to see the violet flowers of Selfheal from spring through to midwinter (early December).
The common name Selfheal, sometimes written as Self-heal, refers to the plant having been used as a treatment for wounds and bruises until recent times.
The slightly bitter-tasting leaves of Prunella vulgaris are sometimes used in salads.
(We strongly advise against eating or using as medicines any plants without first obtaining qualified professional advice.)
The generic name Prunella was given to this plant by the great Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, who was aware of its use as a treatment for the disease Quinsy; he intended to use the German term for Quinsy, which is die Braune, but unfortunately Linnaeus misspelled it as Prunella. Under the international conventions of botanical naming this error cannot be corrected and so Prunella it is. Girls who are given the name Prunella may feel better about it knowing that it the origin is an unambiguous reference to a pretty wildflower rather than a name shared with an unpleasant streptococcal infection of the tonsils!
The specific epithet vulgaris is Latin and much used in botanical naming; it simply means common.
Bugle Ajuga reptans has flowers that are much more blue, and there is a distinctly bronze tinge to its upper leaves.
The much more lax-flowered Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea is another common wildflower and, like Selfheal, a member of the family Lamiaceae; its leaves sometimes take on a reddish or purplish tinge.
The photographs shown on this page were taken at Kenfig National Nature Reserve in South Wales in June.
We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O’Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here…
Other nature books from First Nature…
Where & How to grow SelfHeal Prunella Vulgaris
Selfheal ( Prunella Vulgaris)
It is a very attractive flower and an excellent ground cover plant. It will spread by sending out runners which root and send up more flower stems. The flowers are generally purple/blue but can sometimes be pink or even white.
It adds an attractive dash of colour and is beneficial to both bees and butterflies. It is a very common species and grows over a large part of the world and most of the UK . It has been used in herbal medicine for such as a gargle for sore throats and for cuts, burns and bruises.
Selfheal is a very easy plant to establish from seed or by plugs. Once established it will spread by runners across the meadow. It is an excellent species in a meadow mix, whilst relatively short it creates an attractive base as well as being beneficial to wildlife.
Season It flowers between June and October
Height It grows to a height of between 10 and 30 cm
Season It can be established in the spring or autumn by seed or plants.
Soil Type It will grow in most soils even those slightly acidic but does best on more fertile condition.
Selfheal Plug plants
Weeds of Australia – Biosecurity Queensland Edition Fact Sheet
Prunella vulgaris L.
Brunella vulgaris L.
Labiatae (South Australia)Lamiaceae (Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory)
Widely naturalised in southern ans eastern Australia (i.e. in south-eastern Queensland, eastern and southern New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia, and the coastal districts of south-western Western Australia). Also naturalised on Lord Howe Island.
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) has escaped cultivaiton as a garden plant (i.e. ornamental), and has become naturalised in riparian areas, pastures, open woodlands, disturbed sites, waste areas and along roadsides. It is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria and Western Australia.
Fact sheets are available from Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) service centres and our Customer Service Centre (telephone 13 25 23). Check our website at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au to ensure you have the latest version of this fact sheet. The control methods referred to in this fact sheet should be used in accordance with the restrictions (federal and state legislation, and local government laws) directly or indirectly related to each control method. These restrictions may prevent the use of one or more of the methods referred to, depending on individual circumstances. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, DEEDI does not invite reliance upon it, nor accept responsibility for any loss or damage caused by actions based on it.
Common Self-Heal is a herb found on the meadows and open slopes of the Himalayas, from Afghanistan to Bhutan. Flowers are bright blue-violet, rarely pink or white, up to 1.5 cm long. They are borne in whorls of 6. Flowers are 2-lipped and tubular, the top lip is a purple hood, and the bottom lip has three lobes with the middle lobe being larger and fringed. Sepal cup is also tubular and 2-lipped, purplish. The inflorscence contains many purplish overlapping bracts. Stems are 10-30 cm long, creeping or rising. Leaves are ovate or ovate-oblong, 1.5-6 × 0.7-2.5 cm. There is a pair of leaves just below the inflorescence. Common Self-Heal is found at altitudes of 1500-3600 m. Common Self-Heal was once proclaimed to be a holy herb and was thought to be sent by God to cure all ailments of man or beast. It was said to drive away the devil, which lead to the belief that Heal-All was grown in the Witches garden as a disguise. The root was also used to make a tea to drink in ceremonies before going hunting by one Native American tribe to sharpen the powers of observation.[ Flowering: May-September.
Medicinal uses: Heal-all is both edible and medicinal. It can be used in salads, soups, stews, or boiled as a pot herb. It has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries on just about every continent in the world, and for just about every ailment. Heal-All is something of a panacea, it does seem to have some medicinal uses that are constant. It is taken internally as a medicinal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhoea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart.
About Common Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) 12 Nurseries Carry This Plant
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Prunella vulgaris, known as common selfheal, heal-all, heart-of-the-earth or h kh tho in Vietnamese, is a medicinal plant in the genus Prunella. It grows from 1 to 2 feet high, with creeping, self-rooting, tough, square, reddish stems branching at leaf axis. The leaves are lance shaped, serrated and reddish at tip, about an inch long and 1/2 inch broad, grow on short stalks in opposite pairs down the square stem. The flowers grow from a clublike, somewhat square, whirled cluster, immediately below this club are a pair of stalkless leaves standing out on either side like a collar. Flowers are two lipped and tubular, the top lip is a purple hood, and the bottom lip is often white, it has three lobes with the middle lobe being larger and fringed upwardly. Flowers bloom at different times depending on climate and other conditions; Mostly from June to August. For medicinal purposes, the whole plant is gathered when the flowers bloom, and dried. The leaves and small flowers of heal-all are edible. Heal-all is a perennial herb found throughout Europe, Asia, Japan and the United States of America, as well as most temperate climates. Its origin seems to be European, though it has been documented in other countries since before any history of travel. In the United Kingdom it is abundant throughout Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. In the Republic of Ireland it is currently abundant in the west in counties Galway and Clare, the south-west in Kerry, the south coast and is also found around the central basin of Ireland. It is often found growing in waste ground, grassland, woodland edges, usually on basic and neutral soils. It is grown in any damp soil in full sun or in light shade. Seeds are sown in very early spring in a flat outdoor area. Plant Description Plant Type Perennial herb
Size 1 – 2 ft tall
6 – 9 in wide
Form Mounding, Spreading, Upright
Growth Rate Fast
Fragrance Fragrant – Pleasant
Flower Color Purple, Pink
Flowering Season Summer
Wildlife Supported Landscaping Information Sun Full Sun, Part Shade
Moisture Low, Moderate – High,
Summer Irrigation Keep moist
Ease of Care Very Easy
Cold Tolerance Tolerates cold to -5° F
Soil Drainage Fast, Medium
Soil Description Prefers damp sandy loam. Soil PH: 6.1 – 7.8
Common uses Groundcovers, Deer Resistant
Companion Plants Ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor), willows (Salix spp.), Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Blue Wildrye (Elymus glaucus).
Maintenance Selfheal is generally impervious to most pests, but beware of predation by slugs and snails on young plants.
Propagation Can be propagated by seed (no treatment necessary), by plant divisions, or by planting stolons. Stolon propogation yields larger plants in a shorter amount of time. Collect seeds from the flowering heads at the end of the growing season.
Natural Setting Site Type Found in a variety of places, including forest edges, meadows, and vernal wetlands.
Climate Annual Precipitation: 5.9″ – 154.0″, Summer Precipitation: 0.15″ – 5.80″, Coldest Month: 27.7″ – 54.6″, Hottest Month: 47.3″ – 79.3″, Humidity: 0.01″ – 29.10″, Elevation: 2″ – 8459″
Alternative Names Common Names: Self-heal
Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the “About” section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual “normals” at an 800 meter spatial resolution.
Links: Jepson eFlora Taxon Page CalPhotos Wikipedia Calflora
Contact the photographer
Photo – Walter Wilson
Self-heal, all-heal, heal-all, Brunella (Prunella vulgaris)
“Fibrous-rooted perennial from a short rhizome or stem-base; stems solitary or clustered, erect to spreading or even reclining, leafy, square in cross-section, usually unbranched, 10-50 cm long or tall.
Leaves opposite, relatively few, lance-egg-shaped to oblong or elliptic, minutely hairy to hairless, stalked; margins smooth or obscurely toothed.
“Self-heal apparently consists of native plants (ssp. lanceolata) and introduced plants from Eurasia (ssp. vulgaris). The species now occurs on all continents.”
NORTH to Alaska, EAST to Maine/Newfoundland and SOUTH to North Carolina, Kansas, New Mexico, and California.
USDA zones 04a-09b ,
Sea level to 1,720 meters.
Mesic to dry roadsides; waste places; lawns; fields and open forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones. ,
Plant strategy type/successional stage
Weed/colonizer, can be seral at many successional stages, or part of a climax community (such as a south Puget Sound prairie).
– Abies grandis
– Pseudotsuga menziesii
– Tsuga heterophylla
– Thuja plicata
– Alnus rubra
– Acer macrophyllum
– Acer circinatum
– Quercus garryana
– Agrostis scabra
– Elymus glaucus
– Festuca idahoensis
– Fragraria virginiana
– Fragraria vesca
– Potentilla palustris
– Rosa nootkana
– Rosa pisocarpa
– Physocarpus capitatus
– Gaultheria shallon
– Holodiscus discolor
– Salix spp.
– Amelanchier alnifolia
– Symphoricarpos albus
– Daucus carota
May be collected as:
– Dried flower heads (four nutlets/seeds per head)
– Rooted stolons
– Direct removal for transplanting
Collection restrictions or guidelines
Prunella vulgaris is a perennial herbaceous plant that blooms from June through October. Division can occur any time plants are found. In a mild climate, division can take place any time of the year.. Stolon collection can occur whenever rooting stolons can be found.
Seed collection is most easily accomplished by collecting flower heads at the end of their growing season (September, October, November).
Seeds can be sown on-site in densities that are varied according to desired germination and survival outcomes. ,
Plant mortality should be factored into any restoration project using Prunella vulgaris seeds on-site (in situ).
When seeds are grown in greenhouses or cold frames, they are transplanted (approximately eight weeks ) when they are large enough to handle.
Germination occurs within two to three weeks.
Seeds can be stored; I am unable to verify the shelf-life and storage conditions at present.
Recommended seed storage conditions
Unable to verify.
Prunella vulgaris can be propagated by stolon, division, or seed. Propagation by stolon yields larger plants in a shorter amount of growing time. Stolons root wherever they touch soil.
Cold-stratify seeds for approximately one month.
Seeds can be started in flats, and when the plants are large enough to handle (approximately eight weeks ) they can be transplanted into individual pots and grown to the desired size. Seeds may also be sown directly on site, preferably in late Fall to early Spring.
Soil or medium requirements
Soil requirements are not exacting. Prunella vulgaris will grow in sandy soil, volcanic ash soil, loamy soil, and clay soil. Soil moisture requirements range from an average of mesic to a maximum of hydric. Once established, Prunella vulgaris can tolerate xeric conditions found late-season in Mediterranean climates.
Seeds can be sown on site, however the best strategy for a successful installation is to transplant plants with six or more leaves.
Recommended planting density
Typical forest edge density is approximately three to ten plants per square meter at 800 meters elevation near Mount Rainier/White Pass (Washington State, US). Density is primarily dependent upon water availability, with higher plant densities found in areas with more soil moisture consistently available throughout the growing season.
Around sunny forest edges where the soil is extremely well-drained (pumice and volcanic ash), three plants (groupings of plants approximately 10 cm across) per square meter is average.
Care requirements after installed
Prunella vulgaris should not be allowed to dry-out during its first growing season. Soil should be kept barely moist to damp in partially-shaded plantings, and moist in full-sun plantings. It is best (in the Pacific NW) to plant during the winter rainy season.
After plants are established, high soil moisture will cause increased (even weedy) growth. Established plants can tolerate extended dry periods but do best when soil is consistently moist enough to prevent roots from drying out.
Normal rate of growth or spread; lifespan
Highly variable growth rate. Under cultivation and ideal conditions (observed without the addition of any fertilizers), plants can spread approximately 45 cm in a growing season. In the grand fir (Abies grandis) forests near Mount Rainier plants typically spread up to 3 cm per growing season.
Prunella vulgaris is a perennial that can remain evergreen in mild climates. , ,
A single plant may live from three to ten years.
Plants spread most aggressively/primarily via stolons.
Data compiled by
Walter S. Wilson, 02 May 2006
Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris), White Form
Heal-All, or Self-Heal, is everywhere; it tolerates a good deal of mowing, and seems to be indifferent to sun or shade, so it can establish itself in urban lawns as easily as at the edge of the woods. The color of the flowers is variable; this white form, however, is quite unusual. This patch grew in St. Michael’s Cemetery on the South Side Slopes, where it was blooming in the middle of August.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
PRUNÉLLA L. SELF-HEAL. Calyx tubular-bell-ehaped, somewhat lO-nerved, naked in the throat, closed in fruit ; upper lip broad, truncate. Corolla ascending, slightly contracted at the throat and dilated at the lower side just beneath it, 2-lipped; upper lip erect, arched, entire; the lower reflexed-spreading, 3-cleft, its lateral lobes oblong, the middle one rounded, concave, denticulate. Filaments 2-toothed at the apex, the lower tooth bearing the anther; anthers approximate in pairs, their cells diverging. — Low perennials, with nearly simple stems, and 3-flowered clusters of flowers sessile in the axils of round and bract-like membranaceous floral leaves, imbricated in a close spike or head. (Name said to be from the German Bräune, a disease of the throat, for which this plant was a reputed remedy. Often written Brunella, which was a pre-Linnean form. )
Var. laciniata L Some upper leaves tending to be pinnatifld. (P. laciniata L.) — Said to be introd. near Washington, D. C. (Adv. from Eu.)
The pictures in this article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, so no permission is required to use them for any purpose whatsoever.
The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
Heal-all is a short, drooping to semi-erect perennial forb growing from 1/2 to 1-1/2 feet high on 4-angled stems. Stems usually have long white hair, particularly on the stem angles. Branching can occur but is usually restricted to within the inflorescence. By mid-July in Minnesota, the stems are usually sprawling. It is not native to Minnesota but widely naturalized.
The leaves are opposite, sparse, stalked, with hair on the undersides and on the stalk. Basal leaves are on long stalks and are more ovate, with broadly rounded tips. Stem leaves are more oblong to lanceolate, up to 2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide, with a bluntly pointed tip. Margins of all leaves have shallow bluntly rounded teeth. Bases taper to a partial wing.
The inflorescence is a dense conical terminal spike with axillary spikes sometimes rising from the upper leaf axils. These spikes elongate in flowering. The arrangement on the spike is common in the mint family. In this case, the flowers form a horizontal whorl-like grouping of 6, which are arranged as 2 cymules of 3 flowers each. This arrangement is termed a ‘verticillaster’. Each cymule of the spike is subtended by a broad hairy bract, green with a reddish edge. However, with the spike only at the tops of stems and not in interrupted clusters on the stem, this is somewhat unique in the mint family.
The flowers are 5-parted with a tubular corolla 1/3 to 3/4 inch long that has a violet to purplish upper lip that extends forward over the other parts, acting as a hood. The crest, or midvein, of this lip has fine whitish hair. The lower lip has a large fringed lobe with two smaller unfringed lateral lobes. These are white. The reproductive parts are exserted up and under the upper lip. These consist of 4 stamens arranged in two pairs, one pair, upper, longer than the other (didynamous). These have purplish filaments with purplish-brown anthers. Nestled between the upper pair of stamens is the style with a two-lobe stigma. The outer calyx is green to reddish, hairy on the edges and also has a 2-lipped form with the upper lip truncated to three short teeth and the lower lip cleft into two pointed teeth.
Seed: Mature flowers produce 4 smooth brownish-yellow seeds, encased in the persistent calyx. These drop from the calyx when ripe.
Varieties: The two subspecies of this species are subsp. lanceolata (W.C.P. Barton) Hultén (shown here) and subsp. vulgaris which is native to Europe, known as Lawn Prunella.
Habitat: Heal-all is often found in fields, woods, waste places, pastures and disturbed sites, where there is moist to mesic rich soil with full to partial sunlight. There are both North American species and European imported species with the European varieties usually shorter and can be found in lawns, hence the common name for them of Lawn Prunella. Heal-all can be propagated by seeds but the sprawling stem can root also.
Names: The genus Prunella is derived from the Latin prunum, meaning ‘purple. More details below. The species vulgaris is used to represent ‘common’ as in a frequently found species. Lanceolata means ‘spear shaped’ referring to the leaf of narrow shape with sides tapering to a point. The author name for the plant classification – ‘L.’ refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.
Comparisons: While the mint family verticillasters occur on a number of species, the shape and color of the spike here is not going to be confusing. The European variety, Lawn Prunella, P. vulgaris, subsp. vulgaris, is shorter and usually not erect (photo below).
This extremely common plant is found worldwide, and may grow as tall as 40 cm in the wild, or as short as 2 cm in locations such as your lawn, where it is frequently cut or mowed. Its common names, Heal-All, Self-Heal, and Cure-All are a reference to its use in herbal medicine. Wouldnt it be wonderful if the appellations were actually correct! (I suspect that the -All part might be a slight exaggeration!)
Prunella vulgaris is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Some botanists refer to two varieties of the species, the European one being called vulgaris, and the North American one being referred to as lanceolata. Both species grow in most locations, and since they are almost indistinguishable, the particular species name is not overly important for this discussion.
The image above shows a Heal-All flowerhead in full bloom. The many shades of purple, violet, and green make this a very attractive, (but small), wildflower.
Two images of the bud-stage of the flowerhead, (inflorescence), can be seen below. The structure is composed of parts that are so tightly packed, that they are difficult to distinguish. Keep in mind that the inflorescence of Prunella vulgaris is described as a verticillaster. The flowers are borne in rings, (or whorls), of decreasing diameter at intervals up the stem. As the tip of the stem continues to grow, additional whorls are added. This type of inflorescence is common in members of the mint family. In the images, there are green leaflets indicating each new level, and reddish-purple sepals (modified leaves) that are flattened into an envelope, from which the buds and flowers will emerge.
When a flower blooms, its pale purple petals emerge from the sepal envelope.
Notice that the top of the verticillaster is flattened. In most flowerheads, the blooms are arranged vertically in rows, at right-angles to one another.
Other Prunella vulgaris plants, like the one shown in the images that follow, look quite different. This is an example taken from a lawn which is cut frequently. The purple colouration of the bracts doesnt have enough time to intensify, and so the flowerhead appears much greener than the earlier one. Also notice that the flowers are not arranged in the perfect four-fold symmetry of the earlier one.
Heal-All flowers have two petal-lobes, forming an upper lip that is hooded, arching out over the stamens, and a lower lip which is less intensely coloured. Notice that the sepal pockets have a sharply pointed fringe. The green leaflets are also fringed, but this time with long white hairs.
A front and side view of a blooming flower can be seen below. Beneath the upper and lower lips, the flowers petals are fused to form the corolla tube.
Under the upper, hood-like lip are the flowers four stamens, arranged in two pairs an upper and lower. The flowers pistil grows between the two upper stamens, but it is difficult to see in this image.
In the closer view at left, below, one of the stigmas two lobes can just be seen beneath the hood, projecting down like a fang. In the view on the right, the entire stigma is visible, with both its lobes, in the middle of the group of anthers.
Speaking of anthers (male pollen producing structures), here is a photomicrograph showing one. A multitude of white pollen grains sit on the top surface, which is purple in colour. Between the white base and the purple top, is a light blue band. The forked filament that supports the anther is also present in the image.
Closer views of Heal-Alls pollen grains can be seen below. Each is ellipsoidal in shape, and has a noticeable longitudinal groove on its surface.
Here is a much better view of the forked stigma, (female pollen accepting organ), positioned between the upper two anthers.
Under the microscope, each lobe has adhering pollen grains.
Higher magnification views of a stigma lobe follow. In the first image, you can see that part of the lobes surface is covered by thick, hair-like protuberances.
Segmented hairs growing from the top surface of the flowers upper petal are shown below.
Once a flower has bloomed, the wind, or some other disturbance, causes it to fall out of the sepal pocket. The pocket then looks like a bulged open envelope. Examples of these flowerless envelopes can be seen below. (Purple-fringed sepals, like those shown below, tend to occur more in wild, rather than lawn plants.)
For comparison, here is an example showing a lawn flowerhead that has completely finished blooming.
The plants leaves are lance-shaped (lanceolate), and are positioned opposite one another.
Upper and lower views of a leafs surface are shown below. Notice the extremely tiny hairs that grow on the leafs edge, and on the prominent vein on its underside.
In my area, Heal-All plants begin to bloom in early May, and continue until the end of September. They are truly ubiquitous I have found them in the most unlikely places! Unfortunately, many are so small, that a passerby might miss them. The next time you go for a walk, look for them. They are worth a close-up view!
Approximately half of the photographs in the article were taken with an eight megapixel Canon 20D DSLR and Canon EF 100 mm f 2.8 Macro lens. An eight megapixel Sony CyberShot DSC-F 828 equipped with achromatic close-up lenses (Canon 250D, Nikon 6T, and Sony VCL-M3358 used singly, or in combination), was used to take the remainder of the images.
The photomicrographs were taken with a Leitz SM-Pol microscope (using a dark ground condenser), and the Coolpix 4500.
The following references have been found to be valuable in the identification of wildflowers, and they are also a good source of information about them.
- Dickinson, Timothy, et al. 2004. The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum & McClelland and Stewart Ltd, Toronto, Canada.
- Thieret, John W. et al. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers – Eastern Region. 2002. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (Chanticleer Press, Inc. New York)
- Kershaw, Linda. 2002. Ontario Wildflowers. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta,Canada.
- Royer, France and Dickinson, Richard. 1999. Weeds of Canada. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
- Crockett, Lawrence, J. 2003. A Field Guide to Weeds (Based on Wildly Successful Plants, 1977) Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. New York, NY.
- Mathews, Schuyler F. 2003. A Field Guide to Wildflowers (Adapted from Field Book of American Wildflowers, 1902), Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. New York, NY.
- Barker, Joan. 2004. The Encyclopedia of North American Wildflowers. Parragon Publishing, Bath, UK.
A Flower Garden of Macroscopic Delights
A complete graphical index of all of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World of Chemical Crystals
A complete graphical index of all of my crystal articles can be found here.
Herb to Know: Self-Heal
The origin of the generic name, Prunella, is in dispute. It might refer to the purple flowers, but herbalists cling to the theory that it is a variant of Brunella (in German, die Bräune—“the browns”), a kind of bad sore throat that sixteenth-century German soldiers contracted while “lying in camp”. Gerard (1633) described the symptoms as including a “ruggednesse, blacknesse, and drinesse of the tongue, with a kind of swelling in the same,” along with “a continuall ague and frensie.” Rugged, too, was the remedy: a decoction of self-heal taken “after blood letting out of the veins of the tongue” and followed by frequent washing of the mouth and tongue with the same decoction, “and sometimes a little vineger mixed therewith.” No mention is made of the cure rate. Today, the camp doctor would likely prescribe an antibiotic.
The tannins in self-heal that might have relieved a sore throat might also have been effective in healing wounds and sores. Gerard ranked self-heal and bugleweed (Ajuga sp.) as the two best wound herbs; both contain tannins. Taken internally, self-heal was also thought to alleviate eye inflammations and eyestrain. The American pharmacist and herbalist Ben Charles Harris recommended a decoction of self-heal to soothe the digestive tract during or following an attack of diarrhea.
Self-heal has also been traditionally used for headaches. Gerard noted, “Bruised with oile of Roses and Vinegar, and laied to the forepart of the head, swageth and helpeth the paine and aking thereof.” Today, the herb is known to open up peripheral circulation by expanding blood vessels and thus is used occasionally by European herbalists in treatments for mild headache. However, other peripheral vasodilators such as yarrow, hawthorn, linden, and ephedra have largely replaced self-heal.
In traditional Chinese medicine, self-heal has been referred to as a cooling herb, useful against fevers and liver and kidney disorders and as a tonic.
Self-heal is all but unknown in modern Western medicine, perhaps because more effective remedies abound. Scientists, however, are studying possible antibiotic properties as well as the herb’s ability to lower blood pressure. They have discovered that it contains the antitumor and diuretic compound ursolic acid.
Other research has focused on self-heal’s antioxidant activity. Antioxidants have been in the news lately because of their role in slowing aging and preventing cancer, and natural antioxidants are found in many plants. A recent French test showed self-heal to have one of the strongest antioxidant potentials among the more than 50 mints studied.
Self-heal grows so readily that many gardeners consider it a weed. It is likely to overrun an herb bed unless contained in a bottomless pot and ruthlessly deadheaded. In a meadow or informal landscape, however, self-heal makes a nice ground cover. It is attractive in front of a border of shade-loving shrubs. Some gardeners prefer to grow the related P. grandiflora or P. ¥ webbiana, which have larger, showier flowers in a wider range of colors. All three species thrive in moist soil in sun or part shade. Fertilizer is not advised, as it would make them more rampant.
You may start with seeds or plants. Barely cover seeds with soil and prepare to wait: they may take as long as a month or two to germinate at 55° to 65°F. Established plants self-sow prolifically and also spread by putting down roots at nodes on the stem. Rooted divisions may be taken in spring to increase your planting. Pruning the plants will make them more compact. Mowing doesn’t seem to hurt them, but the leaves of plants that are mowed are apt to be smaller than those that are allowed to flourish untrimmed.
Flowers appear in midsummer and continue for several weeks or longer. They make long-lasting cut flowers and could stand in for violets in a summer nosegay.
Where to find it:
Botanical Name: Prunella vulgaris
Self Heal, with the scientific name Prunella vulgaris, is a low growing herbaceous plant only reaching 10-30cm high. It creeps along by extending its roots as it grows so it can be used as a small groundcover. The leaf stalks are quite short at 5 cm long and the leaves are positioned in opposite pairs on the tough, square red coloured stems. The 2.5 cm leaves have small hairs, are lance shaped, serrated and have a reddish tone to the tips. Each leaf has a central vein with 3-7 additional veins extending from this point. The flowers grow from a club like whorled cluster, which is surrounded by a pair of stalk-less leaves. Each tier of the whorl is made up of six two lipped, tubular flowers. The top lip is a purple hood, while the bottom lip may be white or purple with three lobes on the bottom and a fringe in the middle.
Self Heal gained its name for the healing capacity of the plant which was said to have no equal in treating your own wounds. It is held in high esteem by herbalists. Prunella vulgaris is found throughout Europe, Asia, North America and even Ireland or wherever there is a temperate climate. It may be classified as a weed in some regions where it is not a native plant. It will grow easily in moist areas such as wasteland, grasslands and woodland edges. It is a common wildflower in Europe and was transported to the United States where it is called Heart of Earth and Blue Curls.
Other names include Lance Self Heal, Aleutian Self Heal, Heal All, Carpenter Weed and Hook Heal. Be sure not to confuse this plant with Sanicle, which may also be called Self Heal. The Prunella genus is in the mint family and has seven plants that are all known as a type of self heal, so check the full scientific name if you are looking for a specific plant.
Self Heal has a preference for semi-shade, but a sunny position is satisfactory. In the shade all parts of the plant will be bigger overall. It will do well in a range of soil types as long as there is good moisture, including light sandy soil, loam and clay. The flowers bloom at different times depending on climate, but mostly in summer. After pollination the petals drop off and the multiple flower heads look like corn husks. The seeds ripen several months after the summer flowers. The plant is not generally frost tender.
Prunella vulgaris can be propagated by seed, dividing clumps in spring and autumn or by vegetative reproduction. The stems will creep along and send out roots at the nodes. The plant is adapted for fertilisation by bees and they are the only insects able to enter the flower to reach the nectar at the bottom of the corolla. There are thick hairs at the entrance which stop other insects, but allow the bee’s proboscis to enter and reach the nectar. In doing so, the bee gets dusted in pollen from the anthers positioned under the upper lip of the flower.
Traditional use of Self Heal included as an expectorant, to assist female reproductive disorders, as a skin treatment and astringent, an antiseptic and to treat colic, stomach upsets and gastroenteritis. It would be taken internally as a medicinal tea for sore throats, fevers, wounds, internal bleeding and weakness of the heart and liver. Chinese herbalists considered self heal useful for changing the course of a chronic disease.
There have been studies indicating some potential as antibacterial agents and for treating other conditions. The tannins may assist in reduction of skin swelling and inflammation and have an astringent effect on the skin. The active constituents include betulinic acid, rosmarinic acid, myristic acid, and tannins. The plant also contains vitamins A, C and K and thiamine.
A poultice may be made from the whole plant and placed on wounds to promote self healing. An infusion may be made by boiling 600mls of water, adding 30 grams of self heal and letting it steep. It is recommended to drink a small glass as a general strength tonic and as a gargle for sore throats. A refreshing cold water infusion may be made using freshly chopped or dried leaves. The plant can have a bitter taste but this may be removed by washing the leaves to remove tannins.
Self Heal is said to have a slight minty taste and may be used in salads, stews, soups and teas. Traditionally the Cherokee cooked and ate the young leaves and the Nlakapamux used to drink a cold tea infusion made from the whole plant as a common beverage. It contains vitamins A, C and K, flavonoids and rutin.