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Dig It! Garden Blog

Use for Ajuga reptans

If you’ve been dropping by our blog regularly, you’ll know that Syretha, one of our horticulturists, recently posted about her fondness for Ajuga varieties (currently in bloom here at the Gardens), and I have to second that fondness.
Though I have to say, as an herbalist, I’m definitely biased; any plant regularly dismissed as an invader or a common weed, well, I’m bound and determined to discover a use for, herbal or otherwise.

It just so happens that Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) has long secured a place in the herbal tradition. Among the common names for Ajuga, “Bugle” might be the most well-known, though perhaps “Carpenter’s Herb” gives you the best idea as to its traditional use. Although rarely used these days, Ajuga was a common choice, externally applied, to stop bleeding (what we herbalists call an astringent, styptic herb).
In my practice, I have used it this way with quite a bit of success. Usually, I harvest the entire plant as it comes into flower (though I’m always careful to leave plenty for the pollinators), then dry it, and include it in wound-relieving salves and oils.

While Ajuga has historically been used both to arrest internal bleeding and as a heart tonic, it’s too dangerous an herb to experiment with internally. Externally, though, it’s quite safe. In fact, Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th-Century English botanist, herbalist, and physician, had this to say about our common Ajuga: “…if the leaves, bruised and applied, or their juice be used to wash and bathe [the skin], [Ajuga can] cureth the worse sores. [O]utwardly applied, it helpeth those that have broken any bone or have any…out of joint. [A salve made with Ajuga as an ingredient] is so efficacious for all sorts of hurts in the body that none should be without it.”
Intrigued? Stop by the Gardens to identify (though not to harvest…) Ajuga reptans.
– Amy Jirsa, writer/editor