Lungwort is one of the early flowering plants and opens its flowers in favorable weather already sometimes in February. The plant with the pretty flowers is a popular ornamental plant for some gardeners. The lungwort owes its name to one of the positive effects on our respiratory system, which has already been described by Paracelsus. Also in folk medicine the herb is used, for example, in case of sore throat, hoarseness or bladder problems. In conventional medicine, however, the opinion on the mode of action and application is often controversial.
Profile of lungwort:
Scientific name: Pulmonaria officinalis
Plant family: borage family (Boraginaceae)
Other names: common lungwort, Mary’s tears, Our Lady’s milk drops
Sowing time / Planting time: March – April
Flowering period: March – May
Harvest time: March – July
Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, roots
Location: partially shaded to shady locations
Soil quality: nutrient-rich and permeable soils
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as a medicinal herb: asthma, flu infections, hoarseness, diarrhea, bladder weakness
Use as aromatic herb: only as wild vegetables
Plant characteristics and classification of lungwort
Origin and occurrence of lungwort
Lungwort is widespread almost throughout the European continent. Probably the most well-known representative, the common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), is widespread in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and occurs mainly in extensive deciduous forests and forest edges.
The common lungwort is found at altitudes up to 1,500 meters (4,900 ft). In Norway, Iceland and northern Sweden, the plant is generally absent.
Plant order of common lungwort
The common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is a member of the borage family (Boraginaceae) and thus related to other known herbs such as borage, viper’s bugloss or comfrey. The genus Pulmonaria consists of about 20 species, with the common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) probably the most well-known species. Other species are the unspotted lungwort (Pulmonaria obscura) and the soft lungwort (Pulmonaria mollis). But these are not used for healing purposes.
Note: The plant described here have nothing in common with the Indian lungwort. These are also called Malabarnuss and belong to the family of acanthaceae.
Characteristics and look of the lungwort
The common lungwort is a typical herbaceous plant with stature heights between 15 and 30 cm (6 and 12 in). The plant is perennial and has a horizontal rootstock (rhizome) with a thin and knotty stature.
Characteristic are the leaves of the lungwort. The ovate to lanceolate, entire and slightly hairy leaves have striking white spots that have given the herb several names in ancient times. The meaning of the spots is controversial among botanists. It is believed that the white spots allow the plant to have a controlled transpiration.
As a classical early bloomer, the plant shows its flowers between March and May. The plant forms strikingly deep calyxes, which are colored red, purple or blue depending on the age of the flower. The corolla of the common lungwort is 5-fold. There are several flowers on each stalk. The flower shape is sometimes reminiscent of bluebells.
After flowering so-called schizocarp fruits form, in which sit small brownish seeds.
Lungwort – cultivation and care
The spring bloomers prefer a place among deciduous shrubs or trees, since they get enough light to shoot out in the spring. Although most species also manage with shadows, but then the flowering is often a bit leaner.
The lungwort is very modest in terms of soil and most species thrive on heavy soils or soils with a high calcium content. The optimal soil for lung herbs, however, is loamy-humic, nutrient-rich and summer-warm. They react a bit sensitive on waterlogging, as well as drought.
The sowing of the plant should be done in the spring between March and April. Common lungwort is a cold germ and needs frosts for the seeds to germinate. The seeds should not be put deeper than 0.5 cm (0.2 in) in the soil, as they need light to germ. In the field, a planting distance between 15 and 20 cm (6 to 8 in) in all directions should be maintained to avoid nutrient competition.
Lungwort are suitable for outdoor as well as for the balcony. For cultivating the herb on the balcony, however, it is necessary to have north orientation or west orientation. In sunny southern locations, a firm shadow area should be chosen. For the balcony, a pot with a diameter of up to 20 cm (8 in) per plant should be taken.
The simplest way to grow lungwort is to divide the rootstock – preferably right after flowering in early summer. While some species can be divided into many small pieces because they grow quickly, others take a little longer to regrow to proper growth size. Therefore, the pieces should be slightly larger. Large sections can be planted immediately elsewhere in the garden. Smaller pieces should first be planted in a pot and placed in a shady place. They are then planted in the bed in autumn.
The fertilization of lungwort should be done before flowering in spring with organic fertilizer. Optimal are manure pellets, nettle manure, horn shavings or compost. However, typical complete fertilizers are completely sufficient in small quantities. During initial sowing or first cultivation in potting soil, no further fertilizer is necessary, as commercially available potting soil is pre-fertilized.
The plant should always be kept moderately moist. It should be noted that the soil should never be completely dry for a long time and should always be slightly damp. However, too much moisture is also not recommended. In shady locations, it is usually sufficient to water vigorously once a week.
After the end of the flowering period, a pruning is recommended.
Special measures in winter are not necessary, because the plant is very hardy. Plant diseases usually do not occur.
Diseases and pests
The lungwort is quite susceptible to powdery mildew, but you can obviate by regarding the site requirements. In addition, it can come to an attack by aphids or sawfly. The plant is also popular for snails and butterfly larvae.
Lungwort and its use
The lungwort has only appeared since the end of the Middle Ages or at the time of the early modern period. In addition to its current use in folk medicine, the herb occasionally comes on the table with wild herbs lovers.
Lungwort in the kitchen
In early spring, the young, fresh leaves are a tasty ingredient for salad and other raw food dishes, but also for smoothies. They should be cut very finely, in order not to produce unpleasant feelings in the mouth due to the rough leaf skin. Older leaves are suitable for cooking in vegetable dishes, soups and sauces.
Lungwort can be mixed well with other wild herbs. The taste is reminiscent of cucumbers.
The pretty flowers can be added directly to the salad or just used as decoration.
Lungwort as a medicinal plant
The plant is known as a medicinal herb since the Middle Ages. In records of antiquity, however, the herb has hardly been mentioned. As a medicinal plant it was used because of its striking white spots on the leaves that resembles a lung. Hildegard von Bingen recommended it for the treatment of various lung diseases and various respiratory diseases. The traditional use of lungwort ranges from simple coughing to pulmonary tuberculosis..
Nowadays, the herb is used only rarely as a medicinal plant.
Above all, the high content of silicic acid justifies its use as a cough medicinal plant. In addition, lungwort also contains mucilage and saponins, which are considered to be respiratory medicinal herbs. Furthermore, it relieves intestinal inflammation and diarrhea.
The lungwort tea can also be used externally for wound healing with envelopes, baths and washes. These wound healing abilities are explained by the allantoin content and the contained tannins. The allantoin is also the main active ingredient of comfrey, so that you can use lungwort similar to comfrey.
Lungwort can be used for these ailments and diseases
- catarrh of the upper respiratory tract
- intestinal inflammation
- ocular inflammation
- sore throat
This tea provides relief for respiratory diseases such as sore throat, cough and hoarseness. It may also be used as a supportive adjunct to pneumonia, but does not replace the cause-related therapy by the physician. In addition, this tea infusion is used for bladder problems and diarrhea complaints.
Praparation of lungwort tea
You can brew the lungwort either as a tea alone or together with other herbs as a mixed tea.
Time needed: 10 minutes
This is how to prepare a lungwort tea by yourself.
- put one to two teaspoons of lungwort in a tea strainer in a cup
- dash with boiling water
- leave to draw for 10 minutes
- drink in small sips
- from this tea you drink one to three cups daily.
As with all powerful herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. Afterwards you can drink lungwort tea again for six weeks. The break prevents any unwanted long-term effects and the desired efficacy is maintained and does not diminish through habituation.
Dried lungwort can be ground into powder. One tablespoon of this powder is mixed with a cup of lukewarm milk. Then you drink it in small sips. You can also use this application with warm milk and some honey.
Note on use and side effects:
A permanent use of lungwort is not recommended! Do not use during pregnancy as there is insufficient scientific research! Do not be confused with the Indian lungwort (Justicia adhatoda)!
Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.
Buy lungwort – What is there to pay attention to?
Plants are rarely found in plant specialty markets or garden centers. Occasionally, some traders on marketplaces or larger perennial markets offer smaller plants in pots. Alternatively, you can purchase online. Lungwort plants usually price between 2.50 and 4.50 EUR/$ per plant. Since the herb is very robust, diseases are very rare.
Lungwort seeds are a rarity and usually only available in online shops. The price per pack is between2.50 and 4 EUR/$. But it can go up to 20 EUR/$.
If you want to use common lungwort as a home remedy in the form of teas, you should definitely ask for the botanical name when buying. Many traders who sell medicinal herbs or other natural medicines primarily offer the Indian lungwort (Justicia adhatoda). This herb has nothing to do with the common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) and is used different medicinally. The prices for dried leaves are between 3 and 10 EUR/$ per 100 grams and are therefore relatively expensive.