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Self heal (Prunella vulgaris) Foraging Guide

Selfheal / Summer / Autumn / Edible

Self Heal is a common and edible member of the Mint family. It’s a creeping, perennial plant with a long history of use in herbal medicine.

Hippocrates said ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ And this plant is a perfect example of that philosophy.


Common Names for Self Heal

Selfheal, Self-heal, Heal-all, Woundwort, Heart-of-the-earth, Carpenter’s herb, Brownwort, Blue curls


Botanical Name

Prunella vulgaris


Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Lamiales

Family – Lamiaceae


Physical Characteristics for Selfheal

Leaves

The leaves are lance-shaped, toothed and have red tips, they grow in opposite pairs along the square stems. Up to 3cm long.

Аимаина хикари, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Javier martin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Flowers

The flowers can be pink, blue or purple and they grow on club-like, whirled clusters.  They are two-lipped and tubular. The top lip is a purple hood, and the bottom lip is often must paler in colour. Below the flowers are a pair of stalkless leaves that look a little like a collar.

AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Seeds

The fruits are oblong and purple when ripe and the seed heads quite often remain long after the plant has flowered.

AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Habitat

It’s quite a common plant, it prefers grassy places such as meadows, woodland edges and roadsides.


Known Hazards

Some people have reported allergic reactions after consuming this plant.


Could be Confused with…

Other members of the Mint family, the most similar looking is Bugle (Ajuga reptans) but this has blue flowers and the leaves have a bronze tinge. Bugle is quite rare in the UK but it is also edible.


Edible Uses

All parts of the part are edible. The leaves and shoots can be used raw in salads or cooked as a leafy green.

The leaves, shoots and flowers were traditionally dried and powdered to make a tea.


Notes on Herbal Uses

It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and is typically taken in the form of teas made from the leaves and flowers. It is said to be useful in treating

The plant contains vitamins A, B, C, K, flavonoids, and rutin.

It’s also high in antioxidants and has been the subject of much recent research.

The leaves and stems are said to be antibacterial, astringent, diuretic, hypotensive, anti-tumour and a powerful antioxidant.

The flower spikes have been used for centuries to restore the liver and modern research suggests that the plant does possess hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) properties.


References:

https://www.first-nature.com/flowers/prunella-vulgaris.php#:~:text=Similar%20Species&text=The%20much%20more%20lax%2Dflowered,a%20reddish%20or%20purplish%20tinge.

https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/selfheal-prunella-vulgaris

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunella_vulgaris

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