Prunella vulgaris L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 600 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Temp. & Subtropical Northern Hemisphere to Central America. It is a perennial and grows primarily in the temperate biome. It is used to treat unspecified medicinal disorders, as a medicine and for food.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

LC - least concern

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Naturalizada en Colombia; Alt. 2200 - 3900 m.; Andes, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Morphology General Habit
No Evaluada

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Alt. 2200 - 3900 m.
Morphology General Habit
Naturalised in Colombia.
Not Evaluated.

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.


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%

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

No hazards currently known.


Biogeografic region: Andean. Elevation range: 2200–3900 m a.s.l. Naturalised in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Boyacá, Caldas, Huila, Magdalena, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Quindío, Risaralda, Santander, Tolima.
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): LC.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, native grassland, artificial - terrestrial.


Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016).


Use Food
Used for food.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.

Common Names



  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at and
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants.
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database