General: fibrous-rooted perennial from a root crown or short rhizome. Stems solitary or clustered, erect to creeping and ascending, 4-sided, 1-5 dm long, loosely softly long-hairy in lines or nearly throughout, or practically hairless.
Leaves: few, stalked, softly long-hairy beneath, basal and opposite on stem or basal lacking, entire or obscurely toothed, with lanceolate or elliptic to broadly ovate blade, 2-9 cm long and 0.7-4 cm wide, the lower ones usually broader and with a more rounded base than the upper.
Flowers: tubular, blue-violet or occasionally pink or white, 1-2 cm long, with a hooded upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip. Several flowers in short, dense spikes, 2-5 cm long, about 1.5-2 cm thick, the short-pointed bracts about 1 cm long, hairy on edges. Calyx 7-10 mm long, green or purple, with 3 shallow lobes on upper lip and 2 deeper lobes on lower lip, all lobes bristle-tipped.
Moist, open or partly shaded places, plains to montane zone, in both disturbed and undisturbed habitats, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also widespread in the rest of the U.S.
Leaves of self-heal are edible, raw or cooked. They can be used in salads, soups, stews etc. Somewhat bitter due to the presence of tannin in the leaves, though this can be removed by washing the leaves. A cold water tea of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves can be used as a refreshing beverage. It is said to be very tasty.
Self heal has a long history of folk use, especially in the treatment of wounds, ulcers, sores etc. It was also taken internally as a tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth, internal bleeding etc. The whole plant is antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and has substances that gradually restore health, reduce fever, cause tissue to contract, relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, induce urination, reduce fever, cause a lowering of blood pressure, give strength and tone to the stomach, Check bleeding by contracting blood vessels, is a tonic, and has an agent that kills worms and heals wounds, fresh cuts, etc., usually used as a poultice, thereby its name. It has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Pseudomonas, Bacillus typhi, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculi etc. It can be used fresh or dried, for drying it is best harvested in mid-summer. The plant is experimentally antibiotic and hypotensive.
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