SELF-HEAL (Prunella vulgaris)
Self-heal is a leggy low lying plant with dark green leaves which grow in pairs from the square stem. It has beautiful purple tubular flowers, and is most commonly known to grow in miniature form in lawns and on well mown playing fields. However a larger version also grows wild on waste ground and in woodland.
Contains vitamins A B C & K plus rutin, tannin and flavonoids
Antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, skin soother/healer, stops bleeding, wound healer
Self-heal is a member of the mint family and its leaves and flowers are edible, either raw or cooked. It is a herb close to my heart, being the first plant I ever made salve from, and in many ways it spurred me on in my herbal self education.
A few years ago I had seen a massive patch growing in local woodland and once I had established what it was I began to research (as I do) on how I could utilise this abundant crop. A friend and I went to pick it and as I was making my maiden salve batch, I have to say, I wasn’t too enamoured with its odour. It wasn’t horrible just, well, almost antiseptic. However I persisted and once cooled we tried some on our hands.
Immediately we saw a change in our skin, plumper, softer, smoother and healthier to look at. That night I put some all over my face with the same result - I couldn’t believe how amazing it was.
From that point I used it every day. Other friends wanted to try it so I gave out a jar here and there (thankfully I had made a big batch) and almost everyone had remarkable results with one friend even swearing it reduced her cellulite.
Due to my fibromyalgia I am pretty clumsy in the kitchen and am often covered in scalds and burns which look unsightly on my hands. Whilst using the self-heal salve as hand cream I accidentally discovered it takes down all the swelling and redness and, if applied immediately, completely eradicates the marks of burns entirely. On top of this incredible effect, it’s also excellent on bruises, cuts, deep scratches and insect bites due to its astringent anti-bacterial and antiseptic actions.
Here is my recipe for one jar of the salve, increase all the quantities listed to make more jars.
1 - Small handful of freshly picked and thoroughly washed leaves and stalks – pat dry with a tea towel to stop oil spitting during preparation.
1 mug full of cheap olive oil
¼ bar of bees wax
Heat the olive oil in a pan until you hear it bubble, take the fresh self-heal leaves and flower and drop them into the hot oil, allow to fry for a few minutes, before the leaves begin to darken remove from the heat. Do not allow them to burn because the burnt smell will ruin the salve. Strain the hot mixture through a sieve and some muslin into a bowl. Throw the drained herbs away (or on the compost), and wash the pan. Return the drained oil back to the clean pan and reheat. Drop a quarter of a bar of beeswax into the oil and allow it to melt. As soon as it has disappeared remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly while preparing a sterilised jar and lid. If, during the cooling process, you see that there is separation, whisk until the liquid has combined again. While it is still warm pour into the sterilised jar, covering the top with muslin while the oil cools. Once cooled put the lid on and store in a cool dark place, where it should last for a couple of years. Always label the salve with the name and date, because salves often look the same when cold.
Given the great results I had from using the plant I was surprised to find so few mentions of it in my modern herbal books. In Chinese medicine it is a highly regarded tonic and anti-cancer plant.
Its older name of All-heal is a clue to this plant’s wonder herb qualities, indeed the 16th century herbalist John Gerard believed ‘There is no better wounde-herbe in the world than Self-heale is’.
Self heal has a long history of being applied to swellings and bruises and it was also, as Gerard states, used to heal wounds and to stop bleeding. It is still known to calm intestinal disorders such as chrones, ulcerative colitis and IBS when taken as a tea and was once a common folk remedy for cleansing the liver. A concoction of the fresh plant was also used as a gargle to heal throat ulcers and infections. Having seen its effects on the skin I can well believe it capable of a great many things besides. I would highly recommend having a jar of the salve in your home first aid kit, bearing in mind the old saying, that ‘no one wants a physician who keeps self-heal’…
These are some of my personal experiences using Self-heal combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.
Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle
LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.