Prunella vulgaris/ Self heal/All heal

Prunella vulgaris, also known as self-heal or heal all, and  Duán ceannchosach in Irish, is familiar to almost everyone, even if they do not know the name. Those who wish for perfect lawns dislike this plant as it invades their velvet sward. If left to its own devices and not mown into the ground it will reach a height of 5 – 30 cm. For those interested in its family tree it is a member of the mint family.

This ‘weed’ is edible and can be used in salads, soups, stews, and boiled as a pot herb. Some Native American peoples cooked and ate the young leaves or drank a cold infusion of the whole plant. This use is not surprising as the plant contains vitamin A, C, and K as well as flavonoids and rutin.

To make a cold infusion, simply add a loose fistful of this herb to a non-metal tea pot (china or clay pottery). Let water come to the boil and then let it cool for about two minutes before pouring over the herb in the tea pot. Let herb infuse in water for ten minutes and then strain. When cooled sufficiently, place in fridge and enjoy, when fully chilled.

Its health benefits are many and it rightly deserves the name, ‘Heal all’. Perhaps its use in the treatment of Herpes simplex 1 or ‘cold sores’ is what will be of interest to many people who are plagued with this viral infection. There is a particular carbohydrate  in Prunella vulgaris that stops the replication of HSV cells (1) or at least that is what they found in laboratory research even though any person half versed in the use of ‘weeds’ could have told them.  It even helps the kind that are resistant to Acyclovir the usual product recommended to treat the Herpes virus. Prunella will also help to reduce the severity of genital herpes but is not as good here as with HSV1.

(1) Chiua, LawrenceChi-Ming, WenZhub, and VincentEng-Choon Ooia. 2004. 

A polysaccharide fraction from medicinal herb Prunella vulgaris downregulates the expression of herpes simplex virus antigen in Vero cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 93(1):63-68. 


Halloween, being the start of winter, is also the time when the veil between the spirit world and our world is at its most transparent. It is the time when we remember the dead and there is the lovely custom of laying a place at the table for those loved ones who have died during the year.  this allows an opportunity to reminisce about the person and to share the void that has been left by their passing. 

Darkness as a time of preparation

Darkness, then, is a time of preparation.  It is for this reason, that in the Irish tradition, the day starts with the evening before. It is why we have Xmas eve, and Halloween (the evening of All Hallows). It is why the bean a tí was expected to have all her work done in the evening and the kitchen in readiness for the next day.

Thought for the day

Darkness then may be seen as preparation, even intense preparation, for the next part of living, be it over the ground as a plant or tree ... or new life as a human or animal.