Herb: Wood Sanicle

Latin name: Sanicula europaea

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Wood Sanicle:

Wood sanicle used to be widely used as a herbal remedy and has a long-standing reputation for healing wounds and treating internal bleeding. The herb is traditionally thought to be detoxifying and has also been taken internally to treat skin problems. A potentially valuable plant, but it is little used in modern herbalism. The leaves and the root are alterative, astringent, carminative, expectorant and vulnerary. The leaves are harvested in early summer and the roots in mid to late summer, they can be dried for later use. The herb is highly esteemed in the treatment of blood disorders, where it is usually given in combination with other herbs. It is also taken internally in the treatment of bleeding in the stomach and intestines, the coughing up of blood, nosebleeds, chest and lung complaints, dysentery, diarrhoea etc. It can also be used as a mouth gargle for sore throats. Externally, it is applied to rashes, chilblains, inflammations etc and an ointment made from the plant is applied to haemorrhoids.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Woods, thickets and damp places, avoiding acid soils. Often found in chalk beechwoods and oak woods on loamy soils.

Edible parts of Wood Sanicle:

Leaves and young shoots - cooked. They contain saponins so should not be eaten in large quantities. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.

Propagation of the herb:

Stratification improves the germination rate. If possible sow the seed in the autumn, sow stored seed as early in the year as possible. It is best to sow the seed in situ in a woodland soil under trees If seed is in short supply it is probably wise to sow it in pots of woodland soil in a shady place in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of Wood Sanicle:

Woods, thickets and damp places, avoiding acid soils. Often found in chalk beechwoods and oak woods on loamy soils.

Known hazards of Sanicula europaea:

The leaves contain saponins. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.