PELLITORY-OF-THE-WALL - UPRIGHT PELLITORY: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF PELLITORY-OF-THE-WALL
This herb, pellitory-of-the-wall is a member of the Urticaceae family of plants and so is related to nettles and hops but not pellitory. It is the only member of its genus (Parietaria) that is native to the
British Isles, and is native to Western Europe through to western Asia and the Caucasus. In it is also known as lichwort, and is called upright pellitory in Britain North America.
It has been used for more than 2,000 years in traditional medicine throughout its native range, but most research done on this plant is because it is an allergen. You should avoid using it if you have hay fever.
It gets its name Parietaria because the Latin word paries means wall and this is where the plant is frequently found. It will also grow in stony places and on wasteland. It can grow up to two feet high and its flowers bloom all summer. If you touch the stamens which bear pollen they will spring into action and release their pollen even if the flower has not yet fully bloomed.
John Gerard, the 16th century English herbalist and Nicholas Culpeper writing a century later, concur that a decoction of the plant could get rid of a stubborn cough, and if mixed with a little honey would soothe a sore throat if used as a gargle. Culpeper thought it was good for back pains, or pains in the sides or bowels caused by flatulence or urinary retention and stones and gravel in the organs. He said that it was a wonderful diuretic and believed it was good for gout and any problems aggravated by the retention of urine. He wrote that a decoction of the herb when drunk “eases the pains of the mother and brings down women’s courses: It also eases those griefs that arise from obstructions of the liver, spleen and reins (kidneys)…The juice held a while in the mouth, eases the pains in the teeth…”
He goes on to say that the distilled water of the herb with sugar has the same effect on teeth, but also says that the distilled water “cleanseth the skin from spots, freckles, pimples, wheals, sunburn, morphew &c....” He goes on to explain that the “juice dropped into the ears easeth the noise in them and taketh away the pricking and shooting pains therein.”
He wrote that a liniment made with the herb and “ceruss and oil of roses” was good for cleaning “foul, rotten ulcers” as well as for “running sore and scabs” on children’s heads and also commented that it would stop their hair falling out. The ointment was also recommended for piles and “mixed with goat’s tallow, helps the gout.” He also suggested using the whole herb and a little salt to clean and heal sores and wounds.
Culpeper clearly though that this was a beneficial herb as he also mentions that the leaves could be made into a poultice with mallows (common and marsh mallow), with the herbs boiled in wine along with wheat bran and bean flour, and a little oil then applied warm “to bruised sinews, tendon or muscles” and they would be strong again in a short time and the bruising would be gone.
The leaves and young shoots are edible and can be added to a mixed salad while the leaves have cooling properties (remember Culpeper and Gerard both recommended it for sunburn) and can relieve the pain of minor burns and scalds. The herb can be picked when in full bloom and used either fresh or dried. Apart from its medicinal properties, it can also be used, fresh, to clean windows and mirrors and copper pots and containers.