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Hedge Woundwort-a Practicable Herb.

Updated on August 6, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

Hedge woundwort,Stachys sylvatica is a common herb of hedgerows and other shady places.When not in flower it can be mistaken for the stinging nettle because of its similar shaped foliage and the fact that they often share the same kind of habitat.

It is a plant that attains the height of 60cm or so with flowers arranged in spikes hence the genus name Stachys, a Latinised Greek word that means a spike. It is a member of the mint Labiate {mint family.},but lacks the odour associated with mints, conversely some say it has a pungent smell, but personally I do not find it disagreeable and it is a good way to distinguish the plant when not in flower. The foliage has to be crushed to emit the odour.

Components of Hedge woundwort

The main components of the hedgewoundwort
The main components of the hedgewoundwort

Basic Biology of the Hedge Woundwort

The roots are thick and rhizome, creeping. They soon become established by this creeping root system. Stems--erect may reach over 60 cm. Like the rest of the genus and the mint family in general the stems of this plant are square. However, unlike the stems of the dead nettles which are hollow the stem of this species is solid. Although erect in stature they do produce branches.

LEAVES--- are relatively long stalked borne in opposite pairs, each pair being at right angles to the pair above and the pair below. The blade of the leaf is heart shaped, similar in form to the nettle having saw-like teeth along the margins

Flowers--- are arranged in whorls around the top of the stems as in other species of stachys, such as the marshwoundwort, each whorl having leaf like bracts {see illustration above} beneath it separated from each other by a small gap on the stem. The whole forming a terminal spike. There are rarely more than six individual flowers in each whorl. The individual flowers have an entire bottom lip, spotted quaintly with white dots or marks over the dull crimson-purple background colour, the sides are folded. The upper lip is convexed and slightly sticky to touch. The four stamens beneath the protective hood, formed by the top of the flower, have two of them longer than the others.

The flowers are pollinated by bees and long tongued flies which are guided into the flower by means of a channel of minute white hairs which lead the insect under the hood where they get dusted by pollen. This in turn gets transferred to other flowers as the insects go about their daily business. The bronze shield bug is associated with the foliage.

When the flower has faded and the seeds are formed in the shape of four nutlets the calyx teeth become rigid. As the nutlets ripen the teeth contract and the nutlets are dispersed.

Hedge woundwort

Hedge woundwort has nettle like leaves. Photograph by D.A.L.
Hedge woundwort has nettle like leaves. Photograph by D.A.L.

The Medicinial Virtues of Hedge Woundwort.

In the early days of herbalmedicine whole works were written and devoted to the woundworts which included marsh woundwort, hedge woundwort, the downy woundwort, yarrow, and lady's mantle. They were the main stay of herbal medicine. The whole herb is styptic and its main use was to stem the flow of blood. The plant also yields a yellow dye. The stem produces a strong fibre which was utilised in days gone by . Modern day science has proved that the hedge woundwort has natural anti septic properties.

My experience of this herb can be conveyed by this curtailed story of a country ramble. One day while litter picking around a local lake I cut the top of my hand on a piece of broken glass. The cut was not wide but deep in the manner of a "stab" wound. Luckily I had a tissue to wipe away the blood which also helped to keep it at bay. Finding a hedge woundwort plant {abundant in this locality} I placed a large leaf over the wound and kept pressure on it as I made my way home.

On arrival, I kept part of the leaf covering the wound, which itself was covered by a sticking plaster. The following morning I removed the plaster and the leaf, and to my surprise, the wound was completely closed and clean. The healing "scar" was visible for a week or so but I was able to do my daily jobs without any sign of the wound reopening. I have since used the foliage on countless other small cuts with the same result-a closed, clean wound. This practicable plant is a well worth identifying.

Foliage

The young foliage of hedge woundwort. Photograph by D.A.L.
The young foliage of hedge woundwort. Photograph by D.A.L.
the foliage may be similar to the stinging nettle, however, as we can see the flowers are of a completely different structure.
the foliage may be similar to the stinging nettle, however, as we can see the flowers are of a completely different structure.

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    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Billy, your welcome thanks for reading.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 8 years ago

      Wow - I learnt something new - thanks for sharing.

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Darlene it seems to me you enjoy the plant has much as your feline friend. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment

      tantrum, Thank you for reading glad you found it interesting

    • tantrum profile image

      tantrum 8 years ago from Tropic of Capricorn

      Thanks for this hub. It has been a very interesting reading! :)

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Wonderful hub, I have always used Ala Vera plant for my wounds, so this is a new one for me. Great hub, I will see if I can find this, I just planted some catnip seeds for my cat. The plant grow nicely with nice white blooms at the end of the long stem, he will smell it and rub himself on it. Beings that he is an indoor cat this is important for him. Also, wheat grass is really healthy for humans and their pets. Thumb up my friend....

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