If you wander through the woods at Trill Farm in the summer time you will find a pretty member of the mint family purple-blue flowers called self heal. It is loved by bees and grows all over Britain and Europe in woods, garden lawns, grassy meadows, clearings, and all over my garden! The young leaves and flowers can be added to salads and the whole plant can be steamed and eaten as a vegetable.

Although largely neglected by Western herbalists until recently, the leaves and flowers of self-heal are used as a cooling remedy in Chinese medicine, according to which it enters the liver meridian, gently reducing “liver fire” and nourishing the blood. As liver fire can be linked to inflammatory eye problems, self-heal is used for sore, red, and dry eyes, and also in high blood pressure and glaucoma. It is ideal for other symptoms associated with heat including inflammatory skin problems, anger, irritability, and frustration, depression, anxiety, stress and PMS. Self-heal is also widely used for its anti-tumour properties.

In the Western tradition, as its name suggests, self-heal can enhance our inherent self-healing and improve immunity. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties and is used to clear toxins from the system supporting the cleansing work of the liver. It can be helpful for clearing boils and other inflammatory skin problems, and for problems associated with the lymphatic system such as swollen glands, mumps, glandular fever, and mastitis. When taken in hot tea, it increases sweating and brings down fevers. The astringent tannins in the plant strengthen the digestive tract which is useful during or following a bout of diarrhoea.

With its astringent, antiseptic, and healing actions, self-heal makes an excellent wound healer when used externally. The tea can be used, or the fresh plant rubbed on to the skin to stop bleeding and speed healing of minor injuries like cuts, sores, burns, and bruises and to reduce swelling from bites and stings. It is said to protect the skin from sun damage and would make an excellent component of sun creams. Self-heal can also be used for inflammatory skin problems, piles, type 1 and 2 Herpes lesions, varicose veins, and ulcers. A weak infusion can be used as an eyewash for sore, red, irritated eyes, as well as for sties and conjunctivitis. Dilute tinctures or infusions can be used as astringent gargles for sore throats and as mouthwashes for mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. It can also be used in lotions and douches to treat vaginal infections.


Anne McIntyre runs seasonal courses in experiential herbalism at Trill Farm, using the herb gardens and hedgerows to teach the practical ways to use beneficial herbs.