Self-heal, aka all-heal or heals all, Prunella vulgaris, is a wonderful plant with many medicinal properties, but is underused for the most part in western herbal medicine. This plant is rarely cultivated, but is easily grown from seed or by root division. As a member of the mint family, it can be invasive, but I see that as a win, if you ask me. Self Heal contains entacyclic triterpenes, tannins, caffeic and rosmarinic acids, and vitamins B, C, and K.
Like other plants in the mint family, which includes Rosemary and Sage, Self-Heal has powerful antioxidant and tissue protective activity, making it potentially of value in many chronic illnesses.Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
External uses include knitting cuts and wounds back together and staunching bleeding. Internally it treats fever, diarrhea, and internal bleeding among other things both inside the body and out.
The name Prunella is from the German Brunella that reflects its use for “die Braune” or quinsy, which is a throat abscess. Self-heal was used as a tea and mouthwash/gargle to treat many mouth and throat problems historically.
European and Chinese traditions call for different harvesting times of the plant. In Europe, it is generally harvested just before or while flowering, but in China is picked in later summer when the flowers are starting to wither, which can lead to different uses between traditions. Chinese traditions use if for clearing liver congestion and stagnation, and brightens the eyes, which are linked to the liver in Chinese medicine. In both traditions, European and Chinese, it is generally considered a cooling herb to lessen heat in affected areas. European uses include dissipating nodules, especially in the neck area, such as lipoma, swollen glands, scrofula, and goiter.
I would personally harvest in the early stages, right after the flower fully opens for the simple fact that in my mind, the medicinal components of the plant are strongest then. The longer you take to harvest, the more components can be used up by the plant through the season. But I also know the Chinese know a little something when it comes to plants, so do your research, and make up your own mind.
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Emma Lee Joy