Soft, downy silver gray leaves is one of the many reasons Lambs Ear herb is found in almost every country in the world. Lamb’s Ear can be one of any type of plant belonging to the Stachys family but this herb of the month is Stachys byzantina which is sometimes called woundwort and lousewort.
Referring to a plant’s scientific name instead of its common name will prevent misidentification and misuse of any plant especially for plants in the Stachys family. This large group of plants contains over 250 species and while all possess many of the same chemical compounds the group of compounds in S. byzantina has been proven scientifically as an antimicrobial agent. Several Stachys members were studied as an alternative treatment for diseases including:
Escherichia coli: This bacteria lives in the human body aiding digestion however when present in water or contaminated food it causes diarrhea, cramping and if left untreated can cause organ failure.
Klebsiella pneumoniae: This bacteria is easily spread by coughing and or aspiration and causes a specific type of respiratory disease that if left untreated cause the lungs to bleed.
Pseudomonas aeroginosa: Is a persistent bacteria that is capable of surviving on surfaces and in water and if often found on medical equipment and communal water area like hot tubs and saunas. Left untreated Pseudomonas can and is often the cause of septic infections.
Staphylococcus aureus: This common bacteria is found on almost every surface and in about a quarter of the population where it causes no infection however if the conditions are favorable the bacteria will reproduce and can cause minor conditions including impetigo, abscesses. There are over 30 types of Staph bacteria and some can cause pneumonia and meningitis.
Streptococcus sanguis: This bacteria is found most often in the mouth and contributes to tooth plaque and allows other bacteria to eat away at tooth surfaces causing cavities. Other members of the Staph family can cause strep throat and life threatening infections of the heart.
Aspergilus niger: a type of black mold that affect vegetables and fruits more than human beings.
Candida albicans: a common type of yeast that if allowed to proliferate can cause thrush, vaginal yeast infections and diaper rash.
Numerous tests of dried, flowering Lambs Ear herb, S. byzantina showed marked decrease in antimicrobial activity on the bacterial infections but did not limit the fungal growth of the mold or yeast. Lamb’s Ear herb was more effective against gram positive bacteria as were the other types of Stachys studied in the past ten year. With the emergence of antibacterial resistant bacteria it is good to know that some of the old remedies to help keep them at bay are effective. Additional study may reveal that plant remedies including S. byzantina will provide treatments for people affected by gram positive drug resistant bacteria.
The scientific information as to the abilities of S. byzantina, also called Lamb’s Tongue because of its leaves softness, antimicrobial properties confirms that it is a safe, effective alternative bandage for minor scrapes and scratches. Crushed and rubbed on an insect sting or bite Lamb’s Ear may reduce the swelling, irritation and discomfort.
Historically, Lambs Ear herb was used to help reduce swelling of injured or inflamed joints and muscles and was gathered when the plant was in flower and dried for later use. This plant was often transported from home to home traveling across the country with the early settlers and pioneers. It is sometimes found growing wild in places where log cabins used to stand. The softness and size of Lamb’s Ear leaves make it a perfect toilet paper alternative plus when fully dried the leaves can be used as tinder for fire making.
The healing and effectiveness of plants including Lambs Ear herb is a subject that should be explored as an alternative for synthesized pharmaceuticals especially since bacterial and viral agents are becoming resistant to the man-made drugs designed to kill them.