Thursday, July 11, 2013

Good for what ails you

My "lawn" is flowering, even mowed down low. Gradually pushing out the grass and moss, I have buttercups, white clover, black medic (a tiny yellow flower; "black" refers to the seeds), escaped Creeping Jenny from my garden, a miniature white flower, too small to identify; and this week, the self-heal is popping up blue heads an inch or two high.

Self-heal, heal-all, carpenter's herb, blue curls, sickle-wort, Prunella vulgaris; many names for a tiny plant.

The flower has a hooded top, and a fringed lower petal, divided in three parts.

Prunella is a member of the mint family; it has the same square stems that most mints do. It's a perennial, growing from rhizomes, so it will persist even if it is mowed down before the flowers mature. Unmowed, it will grow up to a foot tall, or long, depending on whether it decides to stand up or crawl along the ground. It will grow in any moist area, from lawns to roadsides or the edges of forests, and can be found all over the Northern hemisphere.

The names come from its many medicinal uses; whatever ails you, someone reccommends self-heal for it. Cold sores, digestive problems, heart conditions, wounds (hence the "carpenter's herb" name), boils and bruises, mosquito bites and sore throats; the list goes on and on. Wikipedia mentions that it is even showing promise in AIDS research. Whether it works for all these or not, the very name and reputation should enhance its usefulness as a placebo.

And it's edible, on top of all that! Fresh in a salad, steeped in a tea, boiled as a pot herb; it's as varied in its culinary talents as it is in the medical department. "They" say it makes a tasty cool drink, too.

I wonder; if I picked every single one of the tiny plants in my yard; would I have enough for one vegetable serving?


  1. also an element in an important sonnet -

    by Robert Frost

    I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
    On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
    Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
    Assorted characters of death and blight
    Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
    Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
    A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
    And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

    What had that flower to do with being white,
    The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
    What brought the kindred spider to that height,
    Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
    What but design of darkness to appall?--
    If design govern in a thing so small.

    --- 1922

  2. Love this! Thanks for posting it!


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