Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heath Speedwell / Ærenpris

Veronica officinalis
Flora and Fauna

Veronica officinalis, foto: stig bachmann nielsen,

In the Danish flora are ab. 20 species of the Veronica, most common:
Veronica officinalis , Heath speedwell, Læge-ærenpris,
Veronica hederifolia, Ivy-leaved speedwell, Vedbend-ærenpris,

Veronica chamaedrys, Germander speedwell, Tvebladet ærenpris
Veronica beccabunga, European speedwell, Tykbladet ærenpris, 

Rare in Denmark:
Veronica spicata, Spiked speedwell, Aks-ærenpris,

The Veronica officinalis ( Heath speedwell)  is wildgrowing in open forests and on dry hills and fields. The creeping stems  have clusters of little short-stemmed blue-purple flowers with dark veins. Characteristic about the speedwells are the blue-purple flowers, which fall off easily, that's why they have got some nicknames referring to infidelity. The Ivy-leaved speedwell grows in cultivated land, it was once a difficult weed in the winter crops. The seeds were often found in numbers in the corn, and the peasantry believed they had fallen down as rain.  The Germander speedwell is common in fences, in high meadows, in forest and thicket. The European speedwell is easy to recognize from the other Veronicas by the thick oval leaves and dark blue flowers. It's common in flowing water ( brooks, ditches etc).

The Danish name Ærenpris (meaning honor and price) refers to the excellent medical power of the plant.

Folk Medicine: 
Henrik Smid, 1546: the European speedwell was included in a decoction for ointment on gout and in cover on swellings; it was eaten as a salad, which had to dissolve bladder stones, expell urine and women's impurities. Some was of the opinion that a patient with dysentery should have the plant boiled in oil, which eased the pain, and the wounded bowel would be healed.

Veronica chamaedrys,foto stig bachmann nielsen,
Simon Paulli 1648: Germander speedwell was one of the best herbs against scurvy, it was used in baths against scurvy-cramp, it removed spots on arms and legs of the patient , the juice of the plant healed wounds in the gums. Peasants put the plant with salt and spiderweb upon wounds.
The Veronica officinalis helped wounds in lungs and other organs, abscesses, colics, even the plague itself. Some mixed pulverized vitriol in speedwell-water was used to bath and clean abscesses, the same water used to heal itching spots and ringworm. It was wellknown that speedwell-wine was good for a patient with pain in lungs and kidneys. Pharmacies had speedwell-syrup and -water, and it was recommended to drink a decoction of the plant added the syrup or water .

The European speedwell was a part of "King Hans scurvy advice" in 1487. The leaves were eaten, the juice or milk- or water-decoction was drunk for scurvy.

the habitat in Lindenborg ådal
1700s: The peasants of the island Funen used, after the schnapps, mostly elderberry syrup, bog myrtle and speedwell against all diseases. Speedwell-water mixed with mint-water or warm beer provided emetics.

The Veronica triophylla, was used against jaundice.

1800s: the speedwell is mentioned among means against dropsy and was part of blood cleansing tea, the leaves are diuretic and tea of the leaves was used for pain in the loin and kidneys; wine-essence helped to strengthen the brain. Syrup from speedwell taken for asthma, "blood spitting"  and wounds in the lungs; the plant was part of a water extract against shortness of breath and old cough.

The Veronica officinalis was recommended against chest-disorders, the dried aboveground parts are still an ingrediense in tea for the chest.

Veronica spicata, foto gb
Tea of leaves from the Veronica spicata was used in coldfever(Malaria) instead of  china bark.

The wise men and women in the countryside used the speedwell in their treatment of the patients, for gout, wounds, cough etc. It was probably also used in abortions together with savin juniper.

The Veronica officinalis (Heath speedwell)  and the Veronica beccabunga ( European speedwell)  are both noted in the Pharmacopoeia in 1772 and was still sold in pharmacies in 1980.

The speedwell was also used to treat horses. A water essence was given the horse against diarrhea, flower buds used for a narrowed hoof; upon a wounded horse was put a cover of European speedwell, flaxseed, butter and vinegar.

At the Faroe islands the Veronica beccabunga was used against scurvy .
The European speedwell is good in the kitchen. Young plants can be eaten as salad like water cress. In the Swedish wars 1659-60 the plant was a good contribute to people's nutrition. The leaves were eaten as salad, spinach and cabbage. Leaves and shots was used in potatosalad; stalks with leaves to be pickled in vinegar as a replacement for cucumbers. Very young leaves eaten raw or as a salad.

Chinese tea: 
The Veronica officinalis is mentioned in 1740 as one of the best replacements of Chinese tea and was drunk like this in many places in the country. Peasants drank speedwell tea in feast seasons with sage and elderflowers, they never bought Chinese tea (1800s).

Veronica officinalis boiled with vitriol dyes black;  with leaves from another speedwell (?) linen is dyed blue.

Speedwell put under the lock of the gun protects it against witchcraft.

Source:  V.J.Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik, Rosenkilde og Bagger, 1980.

 photo: grethe bachmann and stig bachmann nielsen,

the flowery hill, Lindenborg ådal

From wikipedia: 
Historically the green parts of the plant have been used medicinally for coughs, otitis media, and gastrointestinal distress. The plant is rich in vitamins, tannins, and the glycoside aucuboside. Aucuboside, which is also found in many other Plantaginaceae species, is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Extracts are widely sold as herbal remedies for sinus and ear infections. It has been introduced to North America and is widely naturalized there. The slightly bitter and astringent taste and tea-like smell of speedwell led to its use as a tea substitute in 19th-century France, where it was called the d'Europe, or "Europe tea." The French still use this term as a name for speedwell.


Out on the prairie said...

The bliues always catch my eye.

Did you know your word verification changed and is awkward to read? Many are not commenting when it comes up.You can disable it.

Thyra said...

yes, the blue flowers are so pretty.

Yes we have talked about the verification in another post. I want to disable it if I can. I'll try. it is very irritating.

Thank you Steve.

Grethe ´)

Thyra said...

I have disabled the verifications now, thanks to Steve who told me I could do it!! I hope it works.