Heal All (Prunella vulgaris)
Heal All is a native wildflower that can be grown almost anywhere, with a little extra water in very dry conditions! Heal All is both edible and medicinal. It can be used in salads, soups, stews, or boiled as a pot herb. 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 somewhat of a supposed cure-all, but does seem to have quite a number of medicinal uses that are constant! The leaves contain an effective astringent, helpful in stopping blood flow from a wound. Clusters of purple flowers attract butterflies!
Also Known As: Self-heal , Woundwort, Heart-of-the-earth, Carpenter's herb, Brownwort and Blue curls.
Ease of Growing: Easy
Grown as: Perennial
Maturity (Bloom): Summer
Light: Full Sun to Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Medium
Attracts beneficial insects?: Yes. The flowers attract bees and butterflies and is resistant to deer.
Sowing Depth: 1/8"
Produces: evergreen shrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers.
USDA Grow Zone: 4a-9b
Other Uses: Dye. An olive-green dye is obtained from the flowers and stems.
Leaves: raw or cooked. They can be used in salads, soups, stews etc. Somewhat bitter due to the presence of tannin in the leaves, though this can be removed by washing the leaves. A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves is used as a refreshing beverage. Very tasty.
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 [sic] 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, [it] 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.
Canterbury Bells: Blue (Campanula medium)
An old-fashioned biennial. Canterbury Bells form a low rosette of green leaves and upright stems that bear loads of large blue dangling bells. Stems are superb for cutting. Allow some plants to self seed, which will produce another generation for future years.