Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Other Names: Brande, Bregère, Bregotte, Brezo, Bruyère, Bruyère Callune, Bruyère Commune, Bucane, Calluna vulgaris, Calluna Vulgaris Flos, Callunae Vulgaris Herba, Callune, Callune Fausse Bruyère, Erica vulgaris, Grosse Brande, Ling, Scotch Heather.

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) flowers

The familiar heather plant - Calluna vulgaris - belongs to the Ericaceae plant family. The heather is an evergreen shrub that has many branching stems and can reach one to two feet in length when full grown. The heather is characterized by the possession of minute and needlelike leaves, each of which is about one sixteenth to one eight of an inch in length. The leaves of heather are borne in opposite pairs and are clumped together in four rows along the short green twigs on the branches of the plant. The heather bears purplish pink flowers with occasional white colored flowers - from July through September; the characteristic flowers are almost bell shaped. In morphology, the shrub is a tough, bushy, and woody evergreen perennial.

The purple heather flowers have a bell shaped corolla that is two mm across, formed by the joining of four purple colored petals into a tube. The corolla is shorter than the four purple sepals, each of which is two to four mm in length. Heather flowers are borne on a narrow shaped and leafy raceme that can grow to nine cm in length; these racemes grow on the axils of the leaves lying on the upper shoots of the plant. The fruits of the heather are very tiny, rounded and hairy capsules with four cells inside each fruit. The minute seeds, each 0.7 mm in length are strongly meshed in the fruit. 

The shape of the leaves is oblong; each leaf can reach a maximum of 3.5 mm in length. Most leaves do not bear any hair; however, they can at times be downy, often lying in overlapping positions in four vertical rows along the twigs on the branches. Leaves of heather have a dark green color when tender, but tend to turn brown as they mature. The stems of the heather are woody, wiry and pliable. Tender stems are initially covered with dense hair, these become hairless and smooth in later stages of growth and maturity.

The Scots are familiar with the heather plants as this shrub grows and flourishes on many of the moors and heaths in Scotland; the heather has been traditionally used in many Scottish herbal medications. The heather is also a common sight in other temperate regions of the world including mainland Europe and the North American continent. Heather is used in Scotland for many ends; the wiry branched stems of the heather are employed for thatching roofs and are made into brooms. The boiled tops and flowers have also been traditionally made into a yellow dye used to color Scottish wools. A prized brownish honey is sourced from bees that feed on the flowers of the heather; this honey is an ingredient in Scotland's famous Drambuie liqueur enjoyed by so many people. The white heather variety - botanical name: C. vulgaris var. alba - is considered to be good luck charm in Scotland and the flowers of this variety are often tucked into bridal bouquets as a tradition in Scottish weddings.

The heather is native to the temperate regions of the world, found naturally only in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere. The habitats preferred by the heather include heath lands, moors, bogs, and open woodlands. Harvest of the heather is normally done late in the summer, when the heather is in full bloom.

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Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Health Benefits

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) leaf

Heather is a plant. The flower, leaf, and plant top are used to make medicine.

People take heather as a tea for kidney and lower urinary tract conditions, prostate enlargement, fluid retention, gout, arthritis, sleep disorders, breathing problems, cough, and colds. They also take it for digestive disorders such as diarrhea, spasms, and stomach pain (colic), and for diseases of the liver and gallbladder. Heather is sometimes used to cause sweating.

In combination with other herbs, heather is used for treating diabetes, menstrual discomfort, menopause, and nervous exhaustion. Other uses include stimulation of digestion and regulation of the circulatory system.

The remedy made from heather is an excellent diuretic and urinary anti-septic agent, helping in disinfecting the entire urinary tract and mildly boosting the production of urine. The remedy plays a role in the treatment of cystitis and alleviates inflammatory bladder conditions in individuals with infection in the urinary system. The remedy made from the heather herb has also been employed in the treatment of kidney and bladder stones - the herb helps in the destruction and elimination of stones in these organs. One of the main uses of the heather is in the role of a cleansing and detoxifying remedy; it is very helpful in treating problems such as rheumatism, in treating arthritis, as well as in treating gout and related metabolic problems. An herbal liniment is made from the macerated flowering tips; this can be rubbed on affected joints to alleviate the pain of arthritic conditions. The traditional remedy for chilblains is a hot poultice made from the flowering tips of heather.

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) plant

Some of the beneficial properties observed in the remedies made from the flowering heather shoots include an astringent effect as well as an antiseptic action. This remedy is also a diuretic, a cholagogue, a depurative and a diaphoretic. Besides being a potent herbal expectorant, a vasoconstrictor, heather also has a mildly sedative effect on the body. The herbal infusion made from the flowering heather shoots is employed as a remedy in treating colds and coughs, and is very effective in dealing with bladder and kidney disorders of all kinds. The harvest of the flowering stems is carried out in the fall and the gathered stems are dried out doors for herbal use at a later time.

Some people add heather to bathwater for treating wounds.

Heather (Calluna Vulgaris) Side effects

Heather might be safe for most people, but the possible side effects are not known.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of heather during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.