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Herbs & Botanicals

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Prunella (xia ku cao)

What is prunella? What is it used for?

Prunella is the name given to a small yet hearty herb found throughout Europe, Asia and other temperate regions. The plant goes by a variety of names, including self-heal, carpenter’s weed and sicklewort. It consists of an extremely thin stem that reaches a height of up to 18 inches, with dark, reddish leaves and blue-violet or bluish-brown flowers. The flowering part of the plant is used medicinally.

The active ingredients in prunella include flavonoids, tannins, saponins and triterpenes. Traditionally, it has been used to treat inflammatory diseases and ulcers in the mouth and throat. In Europe, it is also used as a remedy for diarrhea, hemorrhaging and gynecological disorders.

How much prunella should I take?

A prunella tea can be made by steeping the plant in water (at a recommended dose of one teaspoon of prunella per cup of boiling water). Some practitioners also recommend using a prunella extract in a water-based solution for gargling.

What forms of prunella are available?

Prunella is available as either a fresh cut or dried herb. Many specialty stores also sell prunella extracts.

What can happen if I take too much prunella? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

As of this writing, there are no reports of side-effects or adverse reactions associated with prunella. In addition, there are no known drug interactions with prunella. Nevertheless, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or lactating. Patients with high blood pressure or heart disease should consult with their health care professional before taking prunella supplements.

References

  • Fetrow C, Avila J. Professional's Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation, 1999.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2000, p. 194-195.
  • Liu F, Ng TB. Antioxidative and free radical scavenging activities of selected medicinal herbs. Life Sci Jan 2000;14-66(8):725-35.
  • Ryu SY, Oak MH, Yoon SK, Cho DI, et al. Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory triterpenes from the herb of prunella vulgaris. Planta Med May 2000;66(4):358-60.
  • Tabba HD, Chang RSH, Smith KM. Isolation, purification and partial characterization of prunellin, an anti-HIV component from aqueous extracts of prunella vulgaris. Antiviral Res 1989;11:263-274.

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