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Prunella vulgaris (selfheal)

Selfheal is a common herb in Britain and has a long history of medicinal use.
Purple flower of selfheal

Prunella vulgaris inflorescence (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Common name: 


Conservation status: 

Not threatened.


Grassland, wood-clearings, rough ground, lawns.

Key Uses: 


Known hazards: 

No hazards currently known.


Genus: Prunella

About this species

Prunella vulgaris is a common herb in Britain and is especially visible on lawns that have not been treated with weedkiller. The plant has a long history of medicinal use, and traditionally the leaves are applied to wounds to promote healing. According to the 16th-century herbalist John Gerard, ‘there is not a better wounde herbe in the world’. The 17th-century botanist Nicholas Culpeper wrote that the plant is called selfheal because ‘when you are hurt, you may heal yourself’.

Prior to World War II, it was used to staunch bleeding and for treating heart disease. A decoction of the leaves was used to treat sore throats and internal bleeding. It is used as an anti-inflammatory and has anti-allergic activity. In western medicine it is used externally for treating minor injuries, sores, burns, bruises and can also be used as a mouthwash to treat mouth ulcers.

Whereas in European countries herbalists have mainly used selfheal for treating wounds, in Chinese medicine it is mainly used for treating liver complaints, acting as a stimulant in the liver and gall bladder. Selfheal shows antiviral properties, and in China it is used as an anti-cancer drug.

Aside from its medical uses, Prunella vulgaris is a valuable addition to areas of grassland managed for wildflowers and wildlife, but can spread into cultivated areas if unchecked.


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