Annual, biennial, or perennial plant growing to 15 in (38 cm). Has lobed, oval leaves and handsome violet, yellow, and white pansy-type flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Heartsease is native to Europe, North Africa, and temperate regions of Asia, and has become naturalized in the Americas. It thrives in many habitats, from grasssy mountainous areas to coastal sites, and is also cultivated as a garden plant. The aerial parts are gathered in summer.
Heartsease contains saponins, flavonoids, salicylates, mucilage, gums, and a resin.
History & Folklore
K’Eogh wrote in his 1735 Irish Herbal that heartsease flowers “cure convulsions in children, cleanse the lungs and breast and are very good for fevers, internal inflammations and wounds.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
In Western herbal medicine, heartsease is used as an anti-inflammatory and purifying herb and is taken for skin conditions such as eczema. An infusion also makes a useful wash for itchiness. Being expectorant, heartsease is used to treat bronchitis and whooping cough. The plant’s established diuretic action makes it useful for treating rheumatism, cystitis, and difficulty in passing urine.
Recent research has found that heartsease has potential anticancer properties. It promoted programmed cell death (apoptosis) and inhibited blood vessel growth (angiogenesis), both important anticancer effects. A clinical trial in children with asthma found that heartsease syrup helped to control dry irritable cough alongside prescribed medication for asthma.