Sanicle, Wood

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Sanicle, Wood

Botanical Name: Sanicula Europaea (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Synonyms: Poolroot. Self-Heal.
Part Used: Herb.
Habitat: Wood Sanicle is an umbelliferous perennial plant, common in woods and thickets and damp moist places, and generally distributel over the British Isles. It is most abundant in the middle and north of Europe and is found on the mountains of tropical Africa. It is the only representative in this country of the genus Sanicula, to which very few species are assigned.

Description: The root-stock (the short underground stem from which each year's new stalks grow upward) is shortly creeping and fibrous, with a few thick, brownish scales at the top, the remains of decayed leafstalks. The stem, erect, 8 inches to 2 feet high, is simple, often leafless or with a single leaf. The radical leaves are on stalks 2 to 8 inches long, the leaves themselves palmately three to five partite and divided nearly to the base of the leaf, the lobes, or divisions, often three-cleft again. The leaves are heartshaped at the base near the stalk and toothed like a saw.

The flowers are in umbels. Each little group, or umbellule, forms a hemispherical head. The little stalks, each bearing a head of flowers, join together at one spot again to form what is termed a compound or general umbel, as in most plants of this order. In the case of the Sanicle, the umbel is said to be irregular, as the converging stalks forming these rays are often divided into two or three prongs. The flowers are pinkish-white, 1/16 inch across, the outer flowers of the umbellules being without stamens; the inner, without pistils. They blossom in May and June and are succeeded in August by roundish seeds, which are covered with prickles, causing them to adhere to everything they touch.

The plant is glabrous and bright green, the leaves paler beneath and the stems often reddish.

The origin of the name of this genus is the Latin word sano (I heal or cure), in reference to the medicinal virtues. In the Middle Ages the power of Sanicle was proverbial: Celuy qui sanicle a De mire affaire il n'a. and Qui a la Bugle et la Sanicle fait aux chirugiens la niche. It was as a vulnerary that this plant gained its medical reputation. Lyte and other herbalists say that it will 'make whole and sound all wounds and hurts, both inward and outward.'

Wood Sanicle has locally often been known as Self-Heal, a name which belongs rightly to another quite distinct herb, Prunella vulgaris, belonging to the Labiate order.

Cultivation: Sanicle is generally collected from wild specimens.

In a moist soil and a shady situation, Sanicle will thrive excellently, especially in rich soil.

Propagation may be effected by division of roots, any time from September to March, the best time for the operation being in the autumn Plant from 8 to 9 inches apart each way.

Part Used: The whole herb, collected in June and dried. Gather the herb only on a fine day, in the morning, when the sun has dried off the dew.

Constituents: As yet no analysis has been made of this plant, but evidence of tannin in its several parts is afforded by the effects produced by the plant.

In taste it is at first very bitter and astringent, afterwards acrid, and probably partakes of the poisonous acridity which is so frequent in the Umbelliferae. In the fresh leaves, the taste is very slight, but considerable in the dry leaves, and in the extract made from them.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Astringent, alterative. Sanicle is usually given in combination with other herbs in the treatment ofblood disorders, for which it is in high esteem.

As an internal remedy, it is of great benefit in all chest and lung complaints, chronic coughs and catarrhal affections, inflammation of the bronchii, spitting of blood, and all affections of the pulmonary organs.

As an alterative, it has a good reputation, and it is useful in leucorrhoea, dysentery, diarrhoea, etc.

It effectually cleanses the system of morbid secretions and leaves the blood healthier and in better condition. The infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water is taken in wineglassful doses.

Sanicle is used as a gargle in sore throat, quinsy, and whenever an astringent gargle is required. Culpepper mentions the use of Sanicle for disease of the lungs and throat, and recommends the gargle being made from a decoction of the leaves and root in water, a little honey being added.

In scald-head of children and all cases of rashes, the decoction or infusion forms an admirable external remedy.

Sanicle is popularly employed in France and Germany as a remedy for profuse bleeding from the lungs, bowels, and other internal organs and for checking dysentery, the fresh juice being given in tablespoonful doses.

Preparations: Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. A strong decoction of the leaves used to be a popular remedy for bleeding piles.

The root of an American species, Sanicula marilandica, contains resin and volatile oil, and has been used with alleged success in intermittent fever and in chorea, in doses of 10 to 60 grains.

American Bastard Sanicle belongs, not to this genus, but to the genus Mitella, and the Bear's Ear Sanicle (Cortusa Matthiola) is likewise not a true Sanicle, being related to the Primroses and Auriculas.

Yorkshire Sanicle is one of the names given sometimes to Butterwort, or Marsh Violet (Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant with violetcoloured flowers and thick plaintain-shaped leaves, which grow in a tuft or rosette on the ground, and to the touch are greasy, causing them to be used for application to sores and chapped hands.