Woundwort, Marsh

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Woundwort, Marsh

Botanical Name: Stachys palustris (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonyms: All-Heal. Panay. Opopanewort. Clown's Woundwort. Rusticum Vulna Herba. Downy Woundwort.
Part Used: Herb.

The Marsh Woundwort is common in marshy meadows and by the sides of rivers and ditches in most parts of Great Britain.

Description: From its root-stock, which is perennial, with numerous, white, fleshy, subterranean stolons, which creep in all directions, it throws up stout stems, 2 or 3 feet high, quadrangular, having many pairs of rather elongated, oblong leaves, tapering to a point and usually clasping the stem at the base. The light purple labiate flowers are arranged in a long spike terminating the stem, usually with only six flowers in each whorl. The long-stalked leaves that spring directly from the root, as in the Wood Betony, have mostly faded off by the time the flowers appear in late summer. The whole plant is very hairy. This plant had formerly a great reputation as a vulnerary, being strongly recommended by Gerard in his Herbal. He tells us that once being in Kent, visiting a patient, he accidentally heard of a countryman who had cut himself severely with a scythe, and had bound a quantity of this herb, bruised with grease and 'laid upon in manner of a poultice' over the wound, which healed in a week, though it would 'have required forty daies with balsam itself.' Gerard continues: 'I saw the wound and offered to heal the same for charietie, which he refused, saying I could not heal it so well as himself - a clownish answer, I confesse, without any thanks for my good-will: whereupon I have named it "Clown's Woundwort." ' Parkinson gives the same origin of the name.

Gerard himself, according to his own account, afterwards 'cured many grievous wounds, and some mortale with the same herbe.' The plant was regarded as a valuable remedy in such cases long before Gerard's time, having long borne the names, among country people, All-heal and Woundwort. The Welsh have an ancient name for it bearing the same signification.

It has edible roots. These are tuberous and attain a considerable size; when boiled they form a wholesome and nutritious food, rather agreeable in flavour. The young shoots may likewise be eaten cooked like Asparagus, but though pleasant in taste they have a disagreeable smell.

In modern herbal medicine this plant (which is collected in July, when just coming into flower and dried in the same manner as Wood Betony) is employed for its antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. It relieves gout, cramp and pains in the joints and vertigo. The bruised leaves, which have an unpleasant odour and an astringent taste, when applied to a wound will stop bleeding and heal the wound, as is claimed for them by old tradition, and the fresh juice is made into a syrup and taken internally to stop haemorrhages, dysentery, etc.