Self-Heal (Heal-All)

Prunella vulgaris

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Photo of self-heal flower head
John Cardina, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Lamiaceae (mints)

Description

A perennial with simple or branched square stems, sometimes creeping. Flowers in tight, cylindrical spikes, blue, lavender, or violet, the upper lip hooded, covering the stamens, the lower lip 3-lobed with the center one fringed. Flowers are subtended by tiny leaflike bracts that are often purple-tinged. Blooms May-September. Leaves opposite, ovate-lanceolate, on petioles, to 4 inches long, often with shallow teeth and wavy margins.

Similar species: Two subspecies grow in Missouri, one native and one introduced. P. vulgaris var. vulgaris, common self-heal, is a native of Europe introduced throughout the Northern Hemisphere. P. vulgaris var. lanceolata, lance-leaved self-heal, is native to North America. It has narrower leaves that taper (are not rounded) at the base.

Size

Height: to 1 foot; can be much shorter in places where it is mowed.

self-heal_plants_02-18-14.jpg

Photo of self-heal plants
Self-Heal (Heal-All)

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A self-heal plant blooms with lavender flowers on a single stalk.
Self-heal plant
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in low and open woods, along streams, forest borders, waste places, fields, and along roads and railroads.

image of Self-Heal Heal-All distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Common statewide.

Human connections

This species has a long history of medicinal use in the Old World and in America. Tea made from the aromatic leaves has been used to treat sore throats, wounds, digestive upset, and a host of other ailments. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a potherb.

Ecosystem connections

Bees, butterflies, and other insects visit the flowers. Apparently herbivorous mammals find this plant unpalatable.