The wood sanicle or European sanicle (Sanicula europaea L.) is a perennial herbaceous species belonging to the Apiaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
S. europaea species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Astrantia diapensia Scop.;
– Caucalis capitata Stokes;
– Caucalis sanicula Crantz;
– Sanicula officinalis Clairv., 1811;
– Sanicula officinalis Gouan;
– Sanicula officinarum Lam., 1779;
– Sanicula officinarum Neck.;
– Sanicula sylvatica Salisb.;
– Sanicula trilobata Gilib.;
– Sanicula uralensis Kleopow;
– Sanicula vulgaris Fr.;
– Sanicula vulgaris W.D.J.Koch, 1837.
The term Sanicula comes from sáno heal, heal: for use as a remedy against stomatitis.
The specific Europaea epithet refers to the area of origin of the European continent.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Wood sanicle is a plant native to the mountains of southern Eurasia and the subtropical zone. In Europe it is present on a large part of the territory, including Great Britain, with extensions then towards northern Africa, the Mediterranean, eastern and western Asia, southern Africa.
In Italy it is present in all regions but is absent in the Po Valley and in the dry climate alpine valleys.
Its habitat is often that of beech and fir and more rarely in mixed woods up to the olive belt, on humus-rich soils at the edge of the forest, in cool and shady places; with optimum in the mountain belt and with distribution between 500 and 1500 m. s.l.m ..
Sanicula europaea is a perennial herbaceous plant with a woody rhizome that can reach a height of 0.60 meters.
The stem is simple or not very branchy, bare or with few leaves.
The basal leaves are rounded, glossy, palmate-penta-matched with cuneate obovate, toothed segments.
Umbrellas are simple, solitary or 2-8 together; many bracts are lanceolate.
The central flowers of the umbel are hermaphrodites; male peripherals. They have white or pink petals.
The antesis is between May and July.
The schizocarpic fruit is a 4.5 mm polachenary, globose or ovoid, sessile, covered with rigid, straight and hooked spinules, with cylindrical mericarpi, without ribs, with 2 inconspicuous vines.
Sanicula europaea is a perennial plant that is harvested in its natural state for local use as a food and medicine.
This plant grows preferably in humid, clayey, even calcareous, fertile, well-drained soils, in a sunny or semi-shaded position.
The seeds are covered with small thorns, which allow them to attach themselves to anything that touches them.
Propagation occurs by seed and stratification improves the germination rate. If possible it is advisable to sow in autumn, in the open field, immediately after ripening.
In the presence of little seed it is better to sow in seedbeds and then place the young seedlings in individual pots from which to transplant in the open field in the following spring.
The multiplication can also be of the agamic type, by division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted directly in their permanent locations.
Customs and Traditions –
Sanicula europaea has long been known for its pharmaceutical properties.
It was once widely used for its healing properties, especially to treat burns, hence the popular French name ‘St. Lawrence’s wort’ in memory of the martyr who died on the grill. It has been used in Europe for wound healing and cleaning.
Recently, the filtered leaf extracts of Sanicula europaea have shown some antiviral properties, inhibiting the replication of human parainfluenza virus type 2 (HPIV-2).
The herb is traditionally considered to be detoxifying and has also been taken internally to treat skin problems.
It is a potentially valuable plant, but little used in modern herbal medicine.
The leaves and the root are alterative, astringent, carminative, expectorant and vulnerary.
A tea, made from the leaves of Sanicula europaea, helps relieve mucosal congestion in the rib cage, stomach and intestines. As a gargle and mouthwash, it is good for mouth and throat inflammations and wounds. It is sometimes used externally to treat skin rashes and wounds.
Infusions, made with water or wine, were commonly used in France to treat dysentery, ulcers and kidney injuries.
The roots have been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally (as a tea) or externally (as an ointment) to treat disorders of the skin, respiratory tract, musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal tract and infections.
Among the edible uses, the leaves and young shoots are eaten cooked. They contain saponins so they should not be consumed in large quantities. It was often a famine food used in times of lean harvests.
Preparation Method –
The leaves of the Sanicula europaea are harvested at the beginning of summer and the roots between the middle and the end of the summer; they can be dried for later use.
In the kitchen The leaves and young shoots can be used, but in moderation due to the saponin content.
The herb is highly regarded in the treatment of blood diseases, where it is usually given in combination with other herbs.
It is also taken internally to treat bleeding in the stomach and intestines, coughing up blood, nosebleeds, chest and lung disorders, dysentery, diarrhea, etc.
It can also be used as a gargle for sore throats.
Externally it is applied instead on skin rashes, chilblains, inflammations, etc .; an ointment obtained from the plant is applied to the hemorrhoids.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.