encyclopedia

Heather Herb and Flowers

Scientific Names:     

Calluna vulgaris L. [Fam. Ericaceae]     

Forms:     

Heather herb and flower tea     

Traditional Usage:     

– Anti-inflammatory
– Antioxidant
– Antiseptic
– Appetite Stimulant
– Astringent (externally)
– Bile Deficiency
– Blood Purification
– Bone and Joint Problems
– Breathing Disorders
– Bronchitis
– Circulatory Disorders
– Digestive Disorders
– Gastrointestinal Problems
– Hypotension
– Inflammation of the pharynx
– Insect Bites
– Laryngitis
– Low blood Pressure
– Metabolism Disorders
– Prostate Conditions
– Skin Problems
– Sleeplessness
– Sores
– Tea Substitute
– Urinary Antiseptic
– Urinary Tract Problems
– Vascular Disorders
– Wounds     

Overview:     

According to European folk medicine, heather herb and flowers, Calluna vulgaris L. [Fam. Ericaceae], were traditionally used as a tea for purifying the blood, stimulating metabolism, treating gastrointestinal disorders and reducing inflammation and gravel of the urinary system. Heather herb and flowers were also used in Swedish traditional medicine to treat inflammatory diseases and wounds. Heather contains many antimicrobial compounds and even honey made from heather flowers has been shown to have high antibacterial activity compared to many other types of honey. Heather tea was also used as a folk remedy for alleviating bone and joint inflammation, for normalizing low blood pressure and for treating other vascular disorders. A study to evaluate the benefits of heather tea for preventing blood platelet stickiness and blood clots tested the inhibitory activity of the tea on prostaglandin biosynthesis and platelet activating factor (PAF) effects and found that heather was active in both assays and was the most potent out of 52 plant extracts examined at inhibiting an oxidizing enzyme called cyclooxygenase. Heather has also been used in folk medicine both as a tea and a bath to stimulate cellular regeneration and to combat abnormal growths through cleansing and detoxification of the body. Studies have shown that a water-Calluna vulgaris extract (water-CVE) is a relatively specific inhibitor of another oxidizing enzyme called arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase and shows potent anti-proliferative effects on abnormal human white blood cells. These results suggest that metabolites of this enzyme and/or leukotrienes play an essential role in cellular functions of these cells and may explain the successful use of Calluna vulgaris as tea and baths in folk medicine. The active compound isolated and purified from heather flowers was characterized as ursolic acid. Ursolic acid also inhibits lipoxygenase activity and DNA synthesis in HL60 abnormal white blood cells.     

Active Ingredients:     

The leaves and flowers of heather contain: Approximately 7% tannins; alkaloids including ericodin; arbutin; carotene; ursolic acid; citric acid; flavone glycosides; flavonoids; essential oil; fumaric acid; tannic-acid; silicic acid; methyl arbutine; myricitrin; organic-acid; mucilage; quercitrin; saponins. A new quercetin has also been identified:  3-[2,3,4-triacetyl-alpha-L-arabinopyranosyl  (1–>6)-beta-D-galactoside] along with 5,7-dihydroxychromone and 5,7-dihydroxychromone 7-beta-D-glucoside from fresh flowers of Calluna vulgaris. [Information from: Gotfredson, E. 2001. Liber Herbarum II: The incomplete reference-guide to Herbal medicine; and Healthlink].     

Suggested Amount:     

Unless otherwise prescribed, boiling water is poured over 1-2 grams of finely chopped heather and after ten minutes strained.  Heather tea is taken 3 times per day. Heather tea is not recommended for prolonged use, due to the high tannin content of the leaves that may damage the liver and alimentary canal.     

Drug Interactions:     

None known     

Contraindications:     

Heather tea is not recommended for prolonged use, due to the high tannin content of the leaves that may damage the alimentary canal and liver.     

Side Effects:     

Heather tea is not recommended for prolonged use, due to the high tannin content of the leaves that may damage the alimentary canal and liver.     

References:     

Allen KL, Molan PC, Reid GM. 1991. A survey of the antibacterial activity of some New Zealand honeys. J Pharm Pharmacol 1991 Dec; 43(12): 817-22.
 
Najid A, Simon A, Delage C, Chulia AJ, Rigaud M. 1992. A Calluna vulgaris extract 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor shows potent effects on human leukemia HL-60 cells. Eicosanoids 1992; 5(1): 45-51.
 
Simon A, Chulia AJ, Kaouadji M, Delage C. 1994. Quercetin 3-[triacetylarabinosyl(1> 6)galactoside] and chromones Calluna vulgaris. Phytochemistry 1994 Jul; 36(4): 1043-5.
 
Simon A, Najid A, Chulia AJ, Delage C, Rigaud M. 1992. Inhibition of lipoxygenase activity and HL60 leukemic cell proliferation by ursolic acid isolated from heather flowers (Calluna vulgaris). Biochim Biophys Acta 1992 Apr 8; 1125(1): 68-72.
 
Tunon H, Olavsdotter C, Bohlin L. 1995. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of some Swedish medicinal plants. Inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis and PAF-induced exocytosis. J Ethnopharmacol 1995 Oct; 48(2): 61-76