Herbs & Plants

Sanicula Europaea

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Botanical Name : Sanicula Europaea
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Sanicula
Species: S. europaea
Kingdom: Plantae

Synonyms: Poolroot. Self-Heal.

Common Names :Sanicle, Wood sanicle

Habitat:  Wood Sanicle  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. It grows  in woods and thickets and damp moist places, and generally distributel over the British Isles.It is widespread in shady places woodland across Europe.

Wood Sanicle is an umbelliferous perennial plant.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.

Succeeds in any moist moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Strongly dislikes poor thin soils. Prefers a loamy or calcareous soil. The seeds are covered with little prickles, enabling them to become attached to anything that brushes against them and thus distributing the seed.

Stratification improves the germination rate. If possible sow the seed in the autumn, sow stored seed as early in the year as possible. It is best to sow the seed in situ in a woodland soil under trees If seed is in short supply it is probably wise to sow it in pots of woodland soil in a shady place in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Edible Uses:  Leaves and young shoots – cooked. They contain saponins so should not be eaten in large quantities. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses:
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.

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.

Known Hazards:  The leaves contain saponins. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.