Please remember that Forage Friday is only intended to be a conversation starter and not an endorsement of treatment. All of the information is presented as trivia only.
Setting up on a shelf in my grandfather’s study was an antique medicine bottle. It only held a few ounces and the bottle was half full of liquid. I’m certain that the liquid inside was once green but it had turned brown with age just like the label. The Victorian style font was faded but still legible. Bold letters at the top were formed into an arch and read “Heal-all”. The writing at the bottom in a complimentary arch read “Good For Man Or Beast”. The cork stopper was broken off more or less even with the mouth of the bottle. The exact composition of the contents was unknown and my grandfather figured it was from the turn of the 20th century. But this was my introduction to the herb known as Heal-all or Self-heal.
While brushing up on the plant for tonight’s post more than one source stated that Heal-all is one of the most studied traditional medicinal herbs in the world. And that many of claims made by herbalists have been proven to be true. In the middle ages most of the doctors were actually religious leaders. Somewhere along the way it was decided that God placed clues about how to use the plant within the plant’s anatomy. This was known as The Doctrine of Signatures.
Image Titled “Heal-all 71020b” showing details of the flowers.
Because the flowers of Heal-all resemble an open mouth with the tongue out it was decided that it was best used for sore throat and conditions of the mouth. It turns out that they got lucky. Modern science has confirmed that Heal-all has some antibiotic and antiviralcompounds. According to the internet Heal-all was successful in controlling herpes viruses in mice and was even researched as part of a treatment for HIV. The plant has been used to as a wash for wounds and sores as well as pink eye. The flowers are said to have strong enough antioxidant properties to protect from harmful effects of UV radiation. Not as a lotion that’s spread over the skin but as an internal preventive. Peterson’s Field Guide says that Heal-all contains ursolic acid which is antitumor and diuretic. The list of traditional uses is actually pretty long. It’s said to be effective in treating fevers and that makes sense because it is in the mint family. The stem is square just like deadnettle and ground ivy. However, it doesn’t have the a strong smell or taste like spearmint or peppermint.
In fact the flavor of Heal-all is so mild that it’s used in salads and as a pot herb similar to the way one would use spinach. Mints are notoriously easy to propagate. So much so that some people would consider it an invasive weed. But in truth it’s a source of vitamins A, C and K. Like most plants it’s rich in various flavonoids and the Wikipedia entry specifically lists Rutin. Now I had to look Rutin up and it turns out to be a combination of Quercetin and Rutinose. Both compounds seemed to have a few benefits but were hard for the body to absorb. The information about what Rutin actually is and if it is actually one of the reasons why Heal-all has earned it’s reputation was complex enough for me to say that I’ll need to do a lot of reading before I understand enough to make a judgement.
But I have learned enough to say that Heal-all is definitely worth giving some space on the edge of the forest. Perhaps even it’s own little garden box that’s tucked away in some partial shade where it can just do its thing and be awesome.
Image Titled “Heal-all 71020b2” Shows the plant growing in the shade of the mountain.
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