The Health Benefits of Prunella Vulgaris

Used in folk medicine for issues from allergies to diabetes

Prunella vulgaris is a natural flowering plant that has been long used in herbal medicine. Its leaves and flowers are widely available in supplement form and believed to be a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions, from more minor issues like sore throat and headache to diseases like diabetes and even cancer.

However, there is a lack of high-quality scientific evidence that supports its use as a healing aid for any health issue.

Prunella vulgaris

 Andrea Robinson / Getty Images

Also Known As

  • All-heal
  • Blue curls
  • Brownwort
  • Brunelle
  • Carpenter's herb
  • Self heal
  • Woundwort

Prunella vulgaris should not be confused with sanicle, a plant used to self-heal.

Health Benefits

Prunella vulgaris is used in folk medicine to help treat or prevent the following health problems:

  • Allergies
  • Colic
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Headache 
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Sore throat

In addition, Prunella vulgaris is purported to stimulate the immune system.

Researchers examined the chemical compounds that are present in the Prunella vulgaris plant. They found that the herb provides antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Scientists know that it contains vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamine, and tannins. Tannins may help reduce inflammation.

However, there's just not enough scientific evidence to support its use for any health conditions.

Human studies using Prunella vulgaris are lacking. Most studies so far have been performed in vitro (on cells) or on rodents. For that reason, it's not known for sure what benefits Prunella vulgaris can offer to humans.

Preliminary research has, however, provided some clues.

Herpes

Prunella vulgaris may help fight herpes simplex virus 1 (or HSV-1, the virus that causes cold sores) and herpes simplex virus 2 (or HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes), according to a 2011 study.

In tests on cells in culture, researchers demonstrated that certain carbohydrates found in Prunella vulgaris may help stop these viruses from penetrating host cells.

Diabetes

There's some evidence that Prunella vulgaris may aid in the treatment of diabetes. In a 2007 study from the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for instance, treating diabetic mice with Prunella vulgaris appeared to increase the animals' insulin sensitivity.

Additionally, research has shown that Prunella vulgaris helps inhibit the development of atherosclerosis, a common problem for people with diabetes.

Cancer

Several studies on human cells, including a 2010 report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, indicate that Prunella vulgaris may help induce apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells.

However, there is currently a lack of scientific support for the claim that Prunella vulgaris can treat or prevent cancer in humans.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of regular use of Prunella vulgaris. It is assumed to be safe for most people, but in the absence of human studies, there is no way to know definitively.

The correct dose for you may depend on your age, gender, and health. Always speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice about the appropriate amount of Prunella vulgaris to use. Be sure to disclose any supplements or medications you are taking, whether prescription or over-the-counter.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Widely available for purchase online, most often in capsule form, Prunella vulgaris is also sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and shops specializing in dietary supplements.

When shopping for this herb, you are likely to see all heal or self heal prominently on product labels; the fine print should identify it specifically as Prunella vulgaris. In some cases, it is specifically sold as a treatment for cold sores or herpes.

Keep in mind that it is illegal in the United States to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for any specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. Also, herbal products like these are not tested by the FDA for efficacy or safety.

When choosing a supplement, it's best to buy from a familiar vendor and look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Common Questions

What are the most common alternatives to Prunella vulgaris?
A number of natural remedies may offer health effects similar to the purported benefits of Prunella vulgaris. For instance, studies show that lysine, lemon balm, reishi, and resveratrol may help treat oral herpes (cold sores).

Can I grow my own self heal?
Yes, some people do. Gardeners describe it as a tenacious, ground loving plant. Common habitats include moist black soil prairies, low ground along rivers and lakes, meadows, thickets, forest openings, woodland borders, pastures, and abandoned fields.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of Prunella vulgaris for treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roh KB, Park D, Jung E. Inhibitory effects of Prunella vulgaris L. extract on 11β-HSD1 in human skin cellsEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1762478. Published 2018 Oct 4. doi:10.1155/2018/1762478

  2. Jassbi AR, Miri R, Asadollahi M, Javanmardi N, Firuzi O. Cytotoxic, antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of nine species of woundwort (Stachys) plants. Pharm Biol. 2014;52(1):62-7. doi:10.3109/13880209.2013.810650

  3. Oh C, Price J, Brindley MA, et al. Inhibition of HIV-1 infection by aqueous extracts of Prunella vulgaris L. Virol J. 2011;8:188. Published 2011 Apr 23. doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-188

  4. Zheng J, He J, Ji B, Li Y, Zhang X. Antihyperglycemic activity of Prunella vulgaris L. in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16 Suppl 1:427-31.

  5. Park SH, Koo HJ, Sung YY, Kim HK. The protective effect of Prunella vulgaris ethanol extract against vascular inflammation in TNF-α-stimulated human aortic smooth muscle cellsBMB Rep. 2013;46(7):352–357. doi:10.5483/bmbrep.2013.46.7.214

  6. Feng L, Jia X, Zhu M, Chen Y, Shi F. Chemoprevention by Prunella vulgaris L. extract of non-small cell lung cancer via promoting apoptosis and regulating the cell cycle. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2010;11(5):1355-8.

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