A brightly coloured and common little plant, Self Heal grows almost anywhere that it isn’t overshadowed by taller plants. It is common in woodland rides and meadows and is also quite fond of lawns. There is a good chance that you will find it in your garden.
It is native to the UK and Europe. In North America it is sometimes described as a separate species Prunella lanceolata but it looks just the same as Prunella vulgaris.
The petals of each flower are fused into a tube at the base and then separate into two distinct lobed petals comprising a hood and a lower lip. The flowers grow in rings at the top of the square stem forming a flower head or inflorescence.
The violet flowers form inside little red or green envelopes that grow in rings around the flower head. These little red envelopes are the sepals of the flower. The rings of flowers are separated by small green leaflets fringed with red. It all adds up to a colourful little wildflower.
The leaves grow in opposite pairs around the square stem. They are usually described as lanceolate (Lance-shaped), they are about an inch long, covered with fine hairs and often edged with red. The whole plant is seldom more than about twelve inches tall.
Self Heal is a member of the Mint family and the leaves are edible but not especially nice. They have a slightly bitter taste and it doesn’t really feature much in the kitchen, it is one for the medicine cupboard.
As the name suggests it was once prized by herbalists. It is supposed to be able to cure almost anything including open wounds and was commonly used for any complaint relating to the mouth. I think that this was because the little envelopes that the sepals form look a bit like the mouth. It seems to be the way in herbal medicine that if a part of a flower looks a bit like a part of the body then that is the part that it will cure.
Species: Prunella vulgaris