Perennial growing to 16 in (40 cm). Has long-stalked, palm-shaped, shiny leaves, with clusters of pale pink to greenish-white flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Found throughout most of Europe and western and central Asia, sanicle is common in woodland areas, particularly in damp shady sites. It is collected in summer.
Sanicle contains up to 13% saponins, allantoin, a volatile oil, tannins, chlorogenic and rosmarinic acid, mucilage, and vitamin C. Allantoin increases the healing rate of damaged tissue. Rosmarinic acid is anti-inflammatory.
History & Folklore
Sanicle derives from sanus, meaning “whole” or “sound” in Latin. St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), who wrote the earliest extant description of sanicle’s use in healing wounds, states of the herb that it “is hot, and there is much purity in it, and its juice is sweet and healthful, that is wholesome.” During the 15th and 16th centuries sanicle became a popular herbal medicine.
The 17th-century English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper praised sanicle’s ability “to heal all green wounds speedily, or any ulcer, imposthumes, or bleedings inwardly,” and compared its benefits to those of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).
Medicinal Actions & Uses
With its longstanding reputation for healing wounds and treating internal bleeding, sanicle is a potentially valuable plant, but it is little used in contemporary herbal medicine. Sanicle may be used to treat bleeding within the stomach or intestines, the coughing up of blood, and nosebleeds. It may also be of use in treating diarrhea and dysentery, bronchial and congestive problems, and sore throats.
This herb is traditionally thought to be detoxifying and has also been taken internally for skin problems. Externally, sanicle may be applied in the form of a poultice or ointment for the treatment of wounds, burns, chilblains, hemorrhoids, and inflamed skin.