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  • Prunella vulgaris L.
  • Labiatae
  • Mint family

Common Names

herbsBlue curls
herbsCarpenter's herb
herbsCarpenter's weed
herbsHercules woundwort
herbsHood weed
herbsHsia-ku-ts'ao (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used

The whole plant

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Woundwort is a low perennial plant to 1 foot tall; the slender, creeping rootstock produces ascending or procumbent stems which grow from 1-3 feet in height. These slightly hairy, square, grooved stems may be solitary or in clusters. Entire or slightly toothed, the petioled, opposite leaves are ovate to oblong-lanceolate in shape. Tubular and two-lipped, the tiny purple flowers grow in dense terminal spikes, blooming from May to October. The fruit is an ovoid, smooth, angled nutlet.

Other varieties: P. grandiflora, also called self-heal, grows to 1-1 1/2 feet tall, has much larger and showier purple or violet flowers; P. laciniata, has creamy white, occasionally violet-tinged flowers, and deeply cut leaves.

Where Found

Grows as a very common weed in open woods, lawns, fields, and waste places in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Medicinal Properties

Antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter tonic, cholagogue, diuretic, styptic, vermifuge, vulnerary

Biochemical Information

Ursolic acid, essential oil, bitter principle, oleanolic acid, rutin, caffeic acid, hyperoside, vitamins A, C, B1, K and tannin

Legends, Myths and Stories

An old Italian proverb: "He that hath self-heal and sanicle needs no other physician."

The plant yields fiber dyes in shades ranging from soft yellow to brilliant gold.

Woundwort is a highly regarded European wound herb, widely used to stop bleeding. In the past, the flower spikes were considered to resemble the throat, and under the Doctrine of Signatures theory, whereby plants cure those parts of the body that they most resemble, self-heal or woundwort was also used for inflammations of the mouth and throat.

In Chinese medicine, the flower spikes are used, and are known as xia ku cao, literally meaning "summer dry herb."

The leaves and young shoots are used by Western herbalists to stop bleeding and applied fresh in poultices as emergency first aid on clean cuts. Culpeper recommended them for "green" (fresh) wounds, suggesting that they would be ideal to "close the lips of them" in the days before stitches.

There are other plants that are called woundwort; Stachys palustris, a cousin of the wood betony; and Stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis) also called Hardrock, Horse-weed, Heal-all, Rich-weed, Ox-balm, Knob-root, also from the mint family, with greenish-yellow flowers of a peculiar balsamic fragrance.


The tea of the plant helps heal internal wounds; as a wash or poultice, for external wounds, bruises, ulcers, and sores. Used as a gargle for throat irritations, cold mouthwash for bleeding gums, including pharyngitis, and for stomatitis, canker sores, and thrush. Useful for hemorrhage and diarrhea. Excellent for convulsions and seizures, epilepsy, hepatitis, jaundice, headache, high blood pressure, fluid retention, edema, fevers, and will expel worms.

In China a tea made from the flowering plant is considered cooling, and was used to treat the liver and aid in circulation; used for conjunctivitis, boils, and scrofula; diuretic for kidney ailments. Research suggests the plant possesses antibiotic, hypotensive, and antimutagenic qualities. Contains the antitumor and diuretic compound ursolic acid.

Formulas or Dosages

Harvest the aerial parts before flowering time.

Infusion: 1 oz. of the herb in 1 pint of boiling water, cover and let stand for 10 minutes, strain. Take 1 wineglassful several times a day.

Extract: soak 1 tsp. herb in 1 pint brandy or whiskey for a few days. Take 1 tbsp. a day or as needed.

Nutrient Content

Vitamins A, B1, C, K


Always seek medical professional advice for abnormal uterine bleeding, bleeding gums, or blood in the urine.

Avoid use if hypertensive.

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