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Selfheal








Several Herbal Simples go by the name of Selfheal among our wild
hedge plants, more especially the Sanicle, the common Prunella,
and the Bugle.

The first of these is an umbelliferous herb, growing frequently in
woods, having dull white flowers, in panicled heads, which are
succeeded by roundish seeds covered with hooked prickles: the
Wood Sanicle (Europoea).

It gets its name Sanicle, perhaps, from the Latin verb sanare, to
heal, or make sound; or, possibly, as a corruption of St. Nicholas,
called in German St. Nickel, who, in the Tale of a Tub, is said to
have interceded with God in favour of two children whom an
innkeeper had murdered and pickled in a pork tub; and he obtained
their restoration to life.

Anyhow, the name Sanicle was supposed in the middle ages to
mean curative, whatever its origin: [509] thus, Qui a la Bugle, et
la Sanicle fait aux chirurgiens la nicle--He who uses Sanicle and
Bugle need have no dealings with the doctor. Lyte and other
herbalists say concerning the Sanicle: It makes whole and sound all
wounds and hurts, both inward and outward.

Celui qui Sanicle a
De plaie affaire il n'a.

Who the Sanicle hath
At the surgeon may laugh.

The name Prunella (which belongs more rightly to another herb) has
been given to the Sanicle, perhaps, through its having been
originally known as Brunella, Brownwort, both because of the
brown colour of its spikes, and from its being supposed to cure the
disease called in Germany die braune, a kind of quinsy; on the
doctrine of signatures, because the corolla resembles a throat with
swollen glands.

The Sanicle is popularly employed in Germany and France as a
remedy for profuse bleeding from the lungs, bowels, womb, and
urinary organs; also for the staying of dysenteric diarrhoea. The
fresh juice of the herb may be given in tablespoonful doses.

As yet no analysis has been made of this plant; but evidence of
tannin in its several parts is afforded by the effects produced when
these are remedially applied.

The Prunella vulgaris is a distinct plant from the Self Heal, or
Sanicle, and belongs to the labiate order of herbs. It grows
commonly in waste places about England, and bears pink flowers,
being sometimes called Slough heal. This is incorrect, as the
surgical term slough was not used until long after the Prunella and
the Sanicle became named Self-heal. Each of these was applied as a
vulnerary, not to sloughing sores, but to fresh cut wounds.

[510] The Prunella Vulgaris has a flattened calyx, and whorls of
purplish blue flowers, which are collected in a head. It is also
known as Carpenter's Herb, perhaps, from its corolla, when seen in
profile, being shaped like a bill hook; and therefore, on the doctrine
of signatures, it was supposed to heal wounds inflicted by edge
tools; whence it was likewise termed Hook-heal and Sicklewort,
arid in Yorkshire, Black man.

By virtue of its properties as a vulnerary it has also been called
Consolida; but the daisy is the true Consolida minor.

The decoction of Prunell, says Gerard, made with wine and
water, doth join together and make whole and sound all wounds,
both inward and outward, even as Bugle doth. To be short, it serveth
for the same that the Bugle serveth; and in the world there are not
two better wound herbs, as bath been often proved.

The Bugle, or middle Comfrey, is also a Sanicle, because of its
excellence for healing wounds, in common with the Prunella and the
true Sanicle. It grows in almost every wood, and copse, and moist
shadowy place, being constantly reckoned among the Consounds.

This herb (Ajuga reptans) is of the labiate order, bearing dark
blue or purple flowers, whorled, and crowded into a spike. Its
decoction, when drunk, healeth and maketh sound all wounds of
the body. It is so singular good for all sorts of hurts that none who
know its usefulness will be ever without it. If the virtues of it make
you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise), keep a syrup of
it, to take inwardly, and an ointment and plaister of it to use
outwardly, always by you.

The chemical principles of the Prunella and the Bugle [511]
resemble those of other Labiate herbs, comprising a volatile
oil, some bitter principle, tannin, sugar, and cellulose. The
Ladies' Mantle, Alchemilla--a common inconspicuous weed, found
everywhere--is called Great Sanicle, also Parsley-breakstone, or
Piercestone, because supposed to be of great use against stone in the
bladder. It contains tannin abundantly, and is said to promote quiet
sleep if placed under the pillow at night. Endymionis somnum
dormire.





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Previous: Sea Plants And Sea Weeds



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