1. Family: Lamiaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Prunella L.
      1. Prunella vulgaris L.

        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’.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Selfheal is a common herb in Britain and has a long history of medicinal use.

    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.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Temperate and subtropical northern hemisphere to Central America, and common throughout the British Isles.

    Description

    Overview: Prunella vulgaris is a perennial herb, with stems often square, crimson tinged, and erect to decumbent, up to 30 cm tall.

    Leaves:  The leaves are shortly petiolate, narrowly ovate, margins entire or shallowly toothed.

    Flowers: The flowers are purplish blue, rarely pink or white. Nutlets 4. Flowers from late spring until the autumn.

    Threats and conservation

    Prunella vulgaris is commonly found in a variety of habitats in the UK and is therefore not threatened.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 11

    Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

    Germination testing: Successful

    Composition values: Oil content 19.2-24.2%, Protein 19-21.4%

    Distribution
    United Kingdom
    Ecology
    Grassland, wood-clearings, rough ground, lawns.
    Conservation
    Classified as Least Concern (LC) using IUCN Red List criteria
    Hazards

    No hazards currently known.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Alabama, Alaska, Albania, Alberta, Aleutian Is., Algeria, Altay, Amur, Arizona, Arkansas, Assam, Austria, Azores, Baleares, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, British Columbia, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, California, Canary Is., Cape Verde, Central European Rus, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Chita, Colorado, Connecticut, Corse, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Delaware, Denmark, District of Columbia, East Aegean Is., East European Russia, East Himalaya, Finland, Florida, France, Føroyar, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Hainan, Hungary, Iceland, Idaho, Illinois, India, Indiana, Inner Mongolia, Iowa, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Japan, Kamchatka, Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Khabarovsk, Kirgizstan, Korea, Krasnoyarsk, Kriti, Krym, Kuril Is., Labrador, Lebanon-Syria, Louisiana, Madeira, Magadan, Maine, Manchuria, Manitoba, Maryland, Masachusettes, Mexico Central, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mongolia, Montana, Morocco, Nansei-shoto, Nebraska, Nepal, Netherlands, Nevada, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Newfoundland, North Carolina, North Caucasus, North Dakota, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Ontario, Oregon, Pakistan, Palestine, Pennsylvania, Poland, Portugal, Primorye, Prince Edward I., Qinghai, Québec, Rhode I., Romania, Sakhalin, Sardegna, Saskatchewan, Sicilia, Sinai, South Carolina, South Dakota, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Tennessee, Texas, Tibet, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Tuva, Ukraine, Utah, Uzbekistan, Vermont, Vietnam, Virginia, Washington, West Himalaya, West Siberia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Amsterdam-St.Paul Is, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Bermuda, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Chatham Is., Chile Central, Dominican Republic, Falkland Is., Haiti, Jamaica, Juan Fernández Is., New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Norfolk Is., Peru, Tristan da Cunha, Venezuela

    Common Names

    English
    Selfheal

    Prunella vulgaris L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Guinea, E. [195], Spain K000509440
    Nennfelft, J. Ax. [17031], Sweden K000509442
    Mooney, H.F. [4628], Lebanon K000283433
    Beguinot, A. [1743], Italy K000910751
    Fiori, Andr. [1744], Italy K000910752
    Cope, T.A. [RBG 139], United Kingdom K000914344
    Pedrosa, D.S. [930], Brazil K001225984
    Monteiro, H. [s.n.], Brazil K001225985
    Lourteig, A. [2134], Brazil K001225986
    Harley, R.M. [20344], Brazil K001225987
    Hatschbach, G. [37941], Brazil K001225988
    Hatschbach, G. [28507], Brazil K001225989
    Altamiro [48], Brazil K001225990
    Casari, M.B. [185], Brazil K001225991
    Leitão Filho, H.F. [1826], Brazil K001225992
    Hatschbach, G. [45556], Brazil K001225993
    Krapovickas, A. [37596], Brazil K001225994
    Blinkworth, R. [Cat. no. 2132], India K001115272
    Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 2132], Nepal K001115273
    Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 2132], Nepal K001115274

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 600 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2012) Flora Mesoamericana 4(2): 1-533. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F.
    • [2] (2012) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 4: 1-431. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève
    • [3] Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012) Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies) , ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
    • [4] Castroviejo, S. & al. (eds.) (2010) Flora Iberica 12: 1-650. Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC, Madrid
    • [5] (2009) Turczaninowia 12(1-2): 17-40
    • [6] Gremmen, N. & Halbertsma, R.L. (2009) Alien plants and their impact on Tristan da Cunha 2: 1-307. Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP)
    • [10] (2004) Journal de Botanique Société de Botanique de France 24: 67-78
    • [11] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [13] (2002) Botanical Journal of Scotland 54: 153-190
    • [15] (1988) Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington
    • [18] Van Heurck, H. & De Beucker, J.I. (1861) Antwerpsche Analytische Flora 1: 1-192. Drukkerij der weduwe Jos. Van Ishoven, Antwerpen

    Literature

    • [7] Bown, D. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
    • [8] Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008) Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela . Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela
    • [9] Mabberley, D.J. (2008). M abberley’s Plant-book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [12] Williamson, E.M. (2003). Potter’s Herbal Cyclopedia. C.W. Daniel, Saffron Walden.
    • [14] (1994) Flora of Australia 49: 1-681. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra
    • [16] Usher, G. (1974). A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable, London.
    • [17] Britton, N. (1918) Flora of Bermuda . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York
    • [19] Gerard, J. (1633). The Herbal; or General Historie of Plants: The Complete 1633 Edition. Dover, New York.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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