Speedwell looks like a harmless little weed, but with its bright blue flowers, it entices to a second look when you meet it walking in sparse woods. This second look is worthwhile, because speedwell is a very versatile medicinal plant. In old books, there are numerous applications, including against scabies, age itching and psoriasis. Likewise, the herb should clear out memory lapses and who knows, maybe it even helps with Alzheimer’s? This disease is so new that at the beginning of its research, speedwell had already been forgotten.
Profile of speedwell:
Scientific name: Veronica officinalis
Plant family: plantain family (Plantaginaceae)
Other names: heath speedwell, common gypsyweed, common speedwell, Paul’s betony
Sowing time / Planting time: March – May
Flowering period: July – September
Harvest time: May – June
Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots
Location: sunny and sheltered from the wind
Soil quality: nutrient rich and clay soils
Use as a medicinal herb: bronchitis, common cold, rheumatism, gout, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis
Use as aromatic herb: wild herb salad
Plant characteristics and classification of speedwell
Origin and occurrence of speedwell
The exact origin of speedwell can not be determined exactly. What is certain, however, is that the origin of the plant is between eastern Europe and western Asia. The plant is today wild in almost all European countries, except in Northern Scandinavia. In the course of colonization, speedwell was able to spread in many areas of North America.
In nature, the common speedwell can be found especially on roadsides, on dry meadows, in forest clearings and on extensive heathland. The plant can also be found at altitudes up to 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) in some high mountain areas of the Alps and the Caucasus.
Plant order of Veronica officinalis
In the botanical classification, speedwell (Veronica officinalis) belongs to the family of plantain plants (Plantaginaceae). The plant is thus directly related to other important medicinal herbs such as the broadleaf plantain or the ribwort. The genus Veronica has more than 350 species worldwide. Many speedwell species are native to Europe and Asia, although some species occur in remote regions such as New Zealand and Australia.
In addition to the common speedwell, which still has a certain significance in folk medicine, there are other types in Central Europe. Particularly noteworthy here are the following plants:
- germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys)
- birdeye speedwell (Veronica persica)
- large speedwell (Veronica teucrium)
- ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia)
- prostrate speedwell (Veronica prostrata)
- spiked speedwell (Veronica spicata)
- longleaf speedwell (Veronica longifolia)
Characteristics of speedwell
The common speedwell is a typical herbaceous and perennial plant. It reaches heights of growth up to 30 cm (12 in), but usually grows with about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) much smaller. The well-known herb has a creeping rhizome with a light brown color, which also serves as a wintering organ.
Speedwell forms greenish-gray to almost silvery-colored leaves that are noticeably hairy and relatively broad. Their shape can be described as elliptical to egg-shaped, where the leaf edges are slightly sawn. The leaves are arranged opposite each other from the stem. The stem is like the leaves hairy soft. If the plants are still quite young, the stems are usually on the ground.
The heyday of the common speedwell is usually expected between early July to mid-September. Then the plant produces its beautiful violet, light blue or rarely white flowers. The flowers themselves are arranged in a raceme and usually found only in the upper third. Each flower consists of four sepals, each having a smooth edge.
At the time of fruit ripeness form triangular to almost heart-shaped capsule fruits, which have a slightly brownish color. Each fruit contains several seeds.
Speedwell – sowing, cultivation and care
Because of its blossom, speedwell is also popular with many gardeners who like to give the plant a place in the bed or in the tub. The cultivation is basically not difficult, although some site requirements have to be considered. Once planted, it is very easy to care for.
It is best to choose a sunny to partially shaded spot for cultivation, with sunny and sheltered locations preferred. Speedwell grows best on slightly acidic, nutrient-rich and slightly loamy soils.
The best sowing times are the months of March to mid-May. The seeds of the common speedwell can be sown directly in the field. When sowing, a planting distance of at least 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) should be kept, since the plant usually forms small carpets. The plant is light germ, so the seeds should only be pressed slight in the soil. The sowing site should always be slightly moist but never completely wet. Also, a drying of the substrate is to be avoided. In general, the first seedlings appear after 12 to 30 days. The colder it is, the longer the germination takes. A cultivation on balcony or terrace is easily possible. The substrate used here is a commercial herbal soil or topsoil with 50 percent compost.
If speedwell grows in a nutrient-rich soil, fertilization is usually not necessary. For sandy substrates as well as pot and container culture, a small dose of fertilizer may be necessary before flowering. Mineral fertilizers (such as blue fertilizer) should be avoided, as they are too nutrient-dense and often too salty. Organic fertilizers such as compost, cattle manure or organic ready-made fertilizers are optimal here.
The soil should always be kept slightly moist. Although speedwell survives short-term dry periods, it should be avoided if possible. However, permanent watering, wet soil or even waterlogging should be avoided. There is a risk of roots rot or pests.
The common speedwell is frost tolerant and hardy. The above-ground parts of the plant die off in the autumn. From the rootstock new shoots appear in the following year to the spring again. No measures are necessary for wintering.
If you want to use the speedwell for healing purposes, the herb should be harvested before flowering (until the end of June). The herb itself should only be dried in the shade.
Use of speedwell
Speedwell as a kitchen herb
In small quantities, the herb-aromatic speedwell is suitable for mixing in salads, vegetable dishes or smoothies. Young shoots with and without flowers are used. Its taste is reminiscent of black tea, so it is also good for tea preparation.
Speedwell as a medicinal herb
Speedwell was a useful herb against numerous complaints in the Middle Ages. Although the herb is known and occasionally used by naturopathy, it usually has much better medicinal plants for each therapy.
In the Middle Ages speedwell was used internally mostly in diseases of the lungs and bronchi, in epilepsy, in purulent ulcers, in liver and spleen complaints or for the treatment of internal intoxication. Externally, it was used in wounds or insect bites. It can be summarized that the plant at that time was almost a universal and above all very popular medicinal herb.
Also, into the early 20th century, the plant was a highly praised medicinal herb. For example, pastor Kneipp recommended the herb for epilepsy, cough and gout. In the present time the herb is used only occasionally in the naturopathy.
Speedwell can be used for these ailments and diseases
- after itching
- bladder stone
- liver weakness
- kidney problem
- loss of appetite
- menstrual disorders
- skin problems
- sore throat
- stimulating metabolism
- stomach weakness
Preparation of a speedwell juice
From the entire above-ground herb juice can be won with the use of a squeezer. This should help kidney diseases and stimulate the metabolism.
Preparation of a speedwell tea
It is prepared from the whole, flowering, fresh or dried herb.
- put two teaspoons in a tea strainer in a cup
- dash with boiling water
- let steep for 5 minutes
A speedwell tea can help with stress and depression, nervousness, mental stress, memory lapses and dizziness. In addition, it helps to balance the cholesterol level, can be used as a preventive measure for arteriosclerosis, for the regeneration of the gastric mucosa, for rheumatism, gout and bladder cartarrh, as well as for cough and digestive problems.
The tea cleans from the inside and helps to dissipate toxins.
In addition, tea-soaked envelopes can help to heal chronic eczema and itching, wounds, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. A hot envelope is used for pain in the chest, which originates from the bronchi, for pain relief. As a mouthwash, the tea is used in aphthae and gingivitis.
Bath additive with speedwell
With excessive foot sweat, warm foot baths with speedwell can help, they are also suitable for fungal diseases. For the foot bath, a decoction of about four tablespoons of the herb is cooked and added to the bath.
For rheumatism, gout, skin diseases, vaginal fungus, burns and itching, a full or sitz bath is taken. To do this, boil two hands full of the herb with two liters of water, let stand for 15 minutes, strain and add to the bath water.
There are no known negative effects from taking speedwell. Since there are few scientific studies on the effects of certain risk groups, it is not recommended using the herb during pregnancy or lactation.
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 speedwell – What should be considered?
As a very popular ground cover plant, speedwell is quite often available in plant centers, DIY stores, flower shops or online shops. If one is also intended to use the plant for medicinal purposes, it should also be ensured that it is the common speedwell (Veronica officinalis). The germander speedwell can be used exactly as the common. Its healing powers are, however, generally weaker.
When buying fresh plants, care should be taken to ensure that the soil in the pot is not completely wet. Otherwise, the plants are quite resistant, so that diseases are rarely to be found. The price per plant is about 3 to 5 EUR/$.
If you want to sow speedwell in the garden or on the balcony, it is usually advisable to buy via an online retailer. The price is about 2 to 3 EUR/$ per package (50 to 100 seeds).
If you want to prepare a tea without having to worry about the cultivation of the plant, so many online retailers also offer dried and already cut speedwell herb. The prices vary depending on the growing conditions and stay with about 2.50 to 10.50 EUR/$ per 100 grams (3.5 oz) within reason.