Heal-All – Prunella Vulgaris: Edible & Medicinal Uses of Another Woundwort of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, name’wuskons, selfheal or heal-all is another edible and medicinal wild plant from the mint family. It doesn’t really heal-all, but it’s still a well rounded astringent plant with many uses. We have a mix of European and native selfheal in Ontario.

Common around Haliburton, you’re most likely to find it in your lawn. You may also find it in damp clearings in woods, and as I often have – along bush roads. It’s usually in clumps. It’s distinguishable from the likes of ground ivy by its straight and narrow lance-like leaves.

The first herbal medicine I ever made (outside of tea) was a selfheal infusion. I figured with “heal” in the name it must be good.

Heal-All - Prunella Vulgaris
Heal-All – Prunella Vulgaris

Edible Uses of Heal-All

The tender young leaves and shoots can be eaten like spinach, raw or cooked. If you find it too bitter, you can soak or boil some of that bitterness out. The flowers are also edible.

For a drink all the aerial parts (the stem, leaves and flowers) can be snipped off, dried and powdered to make an infusion in cold water. In some traditions this tea is taken for processing grief.

Medicinal Uses of Heal-All

Heal-all is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Antibacterial, Anti-inflammatory, Astringent, Diuretic, Vermifuge, and Vulnerary. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a gargle, or you can simply chew the fresh plant raw for sore throats. The Latin name prunella is from a German word brunelle/die Bräune, an illness with throat inflammation and fever they treated with selfheal. As a gargle some folks mix it with honey. Similarly, mixed with calendula and chamomile it’s an antiseptic eye rinse.

Being an astringent it’s also used to clean wounds and one of its folk names is “woundwort”, a name shared by many herbs, perhaps most popularly yarrow. It’s also taken internally for runs, ulcers, etc.; the usual astringency uses.

A mixture of 1 tsp herb in 1 pint brandy or whiskey taken (up to 2 TBSP daily) is used to expel worms.

In this plants case, if you take the time to learn to differentiate the European and native varieties, it’s a plus if you can purposefully harvest the introduced species to use, but plant the native.

Alternative Uses of Carpenter’s Weed

You can obtain an olive green dye from the flowers and stems.

Heal-All - Prunella Vulgaris
Heal-All – Prunella Vulgaris

Growing Prunella Vulgaris

Much of the self-heal you’ll find is non-native, but we have a native subspecies var. lanceolata. Our native species is taller than the introduced European species. Its leaves are even more lance like. Yarrow is another plant that is introduced but also has a lookalike native species. I think in these circumstances nonnatives are more often seen as as “naturalized” than as a problem. Although many of the plants tagged naturalized on this site certainly can be a problem here.

If you can find the native seed, all the better. They propagate by seed and by creeping stems. It’s a pretty groundcover for lawn edges.


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs

The Green Pharmacy: The Ultimate Compendium Of Natural Remedies From The World’s Foremost Authority On Healing Herbs

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

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