Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris)
Self-heal is a beautiful, small, perennial plant with really pretty, dainty two-lipped bluish, violet coloured flowers, which are in bloom in Ireland now. It is very common and appears from June to September/October. It’s leaves, some of which have a red tinge to them, grow opposite to each other on a square stem. It pops up on lawns that are not treated with chemicals, roadsides, woodland edges, fields, on the green middle of small roads or boreens, where I see it most. It provides food for nectar-loving insects (e.g. bees and wasps), other pollinators, and shelter for others, and animals. Some moths and butterflies, caterpillars also feed on the pollen, nectar or leaves, while birds eat the seeds. To help insects, animals and birds it is a great idea to leave wild un-mowed spots in the garden for wild flowers and plants to grow. In creating an eco-lawn it is a good plant to create biodiversity as it is low-growing. Due to its fibrous, rhizomatous roots and spreading growth habit, self-heal can be used for erosion control along roadsides, stream-banks and pond edges. The plant is known to concentrate lead compounds and other pollutants, so it should not be gathered from roadsides (https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_prvul2.pdf).
Self-heal was widely used in the past as a medicinal herb. In medieval times how plants looked indicated how they should be used medicinally: Self-heal’s little flowers face-on look like an open mouth with swollen glands, which suggested it’s use for the treatment of throat problems. Looking from the side the flowers look like bill-hooks, suggesting treatment of cuts and wounds made by a sharp tool (Seal and Seal, Hedgerow medicine, pp150). As a result it is often called carpenter’s herb or hook-heal.
Self-heal is an astringent herb, it is used for treating oral lesions. It is an anti-viral herb, and is used to treat herpes lesions, mouth ulcers, sore throats, flus etc.. It contains a lot of anti-oxidants. It can prevent some viruses from replicating, currently, scientific researchers are therefore investigating it as it shows promise in the treatment of AIDS.
Gathered from clean, unpolluted areas, the flowers and the top parts of the plant and leaves are used to make a tea, they can be used fresh or they can be dried, stored and used later also as a tea. One can make an infused oil, in olive, almond or another oil of choice with the flowers and leaves, which can be used to treat wounds. One can then make a salve or balm or cream from this oil, for wound, cut, sores, pain or swelling treatment.