Self-Heal, Heal All

You’d think a plant with a name as auspicious as this one would be dramatic and imposing. Instead, it camouflages itself in your lawn. But it has been used internally and externally since at least the 2nd century in both China and Europe. Its botanical name, Prunella, derives from the German word Brunella, which comes from die Braune, meaning quinsy {a throat abscess}, for which it was commonly used in the Middle Ages.
Self-heal is a creeping perennial that volunteers in moist places like woods, pastures, sub-alpine meadows, and, of course, lawns. It sends up a flexible, branching, flowering stalk that can reach 1 foot tall, with soft oval or lance-shaped leaves and beautiful pink to blue-violet flowers on spikes.
True to its name, this herb traditionally “heals all,” from simple eyestrain to whole-body inflammation.

Preparation As A Tea:

 Self-heal is used as a tea, in tinctures, and as an extract in capsules and tablet form. Make a strong infusion, and drink 1 to 3 cups a day. For the tincture, use 1 to 2 droppers full in warm water or tea two to four times daily. Follow the label instructions on other products.

Healing Properties:

 Self-heal is a great example of a herb that is used both in traditional Chinese and Western cultures. In Europe, the herb has been used since the Middle Ages and is mentioned in 16th-century herbals as a wound-healing herb and a gargle for diseases of the mouth and tongue.
In China, self-heal has been used since at least the 14th-century as a cleansing herb that normalizes liver enzyme output and reduces fevers. In traditional Chinese medical thinking, each internal organ associated with a sense organ, and the liver is associated with the eyes. Thus, self-heal tea can be used as either a wash or a tea to help ease eyestrain, red and itchy eyes, sties, and other eye inflammation. The tea or extract can also help relieve dizziness and headaches when these symptoms are associated with a liver imbalance.
Self-heal is loaded with protective and antioxidant compounds known as phenolics, which act as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties similar to the ones found in pomegranates and green tea. Since the taste is mild and refreshing, the herbal tea or extract can be used regularly as a healthy, calming drink for the liver, the skin, and the whole body.
A number of current studies show that self-heal can protect the blood vessels and has antiviral effects against influenza, herpes sores, and HIV-AIDS.


 No concerns are known.

  In the Garden:

selfHealSeal-heal will want to be placed in partial shade; you can grow it in full sun, but it will need ample water. Give it fairly moist soil, and don’t fertilize it too much. Once the flower heads have turned brown, cut them back to the ground to encourage another bloom. Seal-heal is low and spreading and can die back during dry summers. It’s somewhat frost tolerant, and though it’s often a short-lived perennial, it reseeds and spreads easily by runners. Self-heal is a very pretty ground cover, weaving in and around other plants, and it also looks lovely cascading over the edge of a pot.
The seed sows best after cold stratification, or you can start it early in spring, before the last frost. Cuttings have a low success rate, but dividing the plant is nearly always successful.

Harvesting Self-Heal:

 Gather the flowering tops and any additional leaves below the flowering tops. In Western medicine, we consider the flowers to be potent as long as at least one-third of the head is blooming and no more than one-quarter is browning. In traditional Chinese medicine, however, the flowers are gathered when they are “wilting,” meaning already brown. Make sure this herb is dried at low heat since it degrades quickly.