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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Pulmonaria officinalis | Lungwort

Botanical Overview of Lungwort

  • Scientific Name: Pulmonaria officinalis

  • Common Names: Lungwort, Common Lungwort, Jerusalem Cowslip, Spotted Dog, Soldiers and Sailors

  • Family: Boraginaceae

  • Description: Lungwort is a low-growing perennial herb, typically reaching heights of 20-30 cm. It is known for its distinctive, oval-shaped leaves that are often spotted or mottled with white or silver, giving them a unique, speckled appearance. The plant produces clusters of funnel-shaped flowers that can range in color from pink and red to blue and violet, often changing hues as they mature. The flowers bloom in early spring, adding a splash of color to gardens and woodlands. Lungwort has a hairy texture, with both leaves and stems covered in fine, bristly hairs.

pulmonaria officinalis botanical illustration

Properties of Lungwort

  • Chemical Constituents: Contains allantoin, mucilage, tannins, saponins, and silica. These compounds contribute to its demulcent, expectorant, and astringent properties.

  • Edibility: Lungwort leaves are sometimes used in salads or as a potherb, though they have a somewhat rough texture and a mild, slightly astringent taste. They are more commonly utilized in herbal teas and infusions for their medicinal properties rather than as a staple food source.

Distribution and Habitat of Lungwort

  • Native Range: Europe and Western Asia.

  • Preferred Habitat: Lungwort thrives in shady or semi-shady environments with moist, well-drained soil. It is commonly found in deciduous woodlands, forest margins, and damp meadows. The plant is often grown in gardens as a ground cover or ornamental due to its attractive foliage and early spring flowers. Lungwort prefers environments that provide protection from intense sun and wind, which can dry out its delicate leaves.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Lungwort

  • Traditional Uses: Historically, Lungwort was used in herbal medicine for its beneficial effects on the respiratory system. The plant's common name and traditional uses stem from the Doctrine of Signatures, which suggested that its lung-shaped, spotted leaves indicated its efficacy in treating lung conditions. Lungwort was commonly employed to alleviate coughs, bronchitis, and other respiratory issues. The herb was also used to soothe sore throats, reduce inflammation, and support wound healing. Its mucilaginous properties made it valuable for coating and protecting mucous membranes.

  • Modern Applications: Today, Lungwort is recognized for its demulcent and expectorant qualities. It is often included in herbal preparations aimed at treating respiratory ailments, such as dry coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. Lungwort tea or tincture can help to soothe irritated tissues and promote the clearance of mucus. The plant's astringent properties are also used to treat minor skin irritations and inflammation. Additionally, Lungwort’s high silica content supports connective tissue health, making it beneficial for skin, hair, and nails. While not as commonly used in mainstream herbalism, it remains a valuable remedy in traditional and folk medicine for its gentle yet effective healing properties.

Magical Correspondences and Uses of Lungwort in Magical Practice

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Mercury

  • Magical Properties: Healing, protection, clarity, and communication.

  • Uses: In magical practices, Lungwort is often associated with healing and protection. It is used in rituals and spells designed to promote health and well-being, particularly concerning the respiratory system. Lungwort can be included in charm bags, incenses, or baths to enhance physical recovery and guard against illness. Its connection to Mercury links it to communication and mental clarity, making it a valuable ally in spells aimed at improving speech, enhancing understanding, or facilitating clear thinking. The plant’s speckled leaves are also associated with seeing through illusions, both physical and metaphorical, making Lungwort a useful component in rituals focused on discernment and truth. Additionally, Lungwort’s early spring bloom and vibrant flowers symbolize renewal and new beginnings, making it a potent symbol in spells and rituals aimed at personal growth and transformation.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Lungwort

  • Historical Context: Lungwort has been associated with folk medicine and magical practices for centuries. Its use in treating respiratory conditions and its distinctive appearance contributed to its reputation as a healing herb. The plant’s name, derived from the Latin “pulmo” (lung), reflects its historical role in treating pulmonary issues.

  • Folklore: In folklore, Lungwort was believed to protect against evil spirits and malevolent forces. Carrying the plant or hanging it in the home was thought to safeguard against illness and misfortune. Lungwort was also associated with fairies and woodland spirits, and it was believed that the plant could attract these beings or reveal their presence. In some traditions, Lungwort was used in divination practices to gain insight into health and well-being, particularly concerning the lungs and respiratory system.

  • Mythology: Although not prominently featured in classical mythology, Lungwort’s role in traditional medicine and folklore has imbued it with a sense of mystical significance. The plant’s transformation of flower color from pink to blue symbolizes change and adaptation, resonating with themes of growth and renewal. Lungwort’s association with Mercury aligns it with the god of communication and healing, reinforcing its connections to both physical and spiritual health.

Historical Literary Sources

  • "The Grete Herball" (1526): One of the earliest printed herbals, which includes mentions of Lungwort’s use in treating lung ailments.

  • "Culpeper’s Complete Herbal" by Nicholas Culpeper (1653): Details the medicinal properties of Lungwort and its applications in herbal medicine, particularly for respiratory issues.

  • "A Modern Herbal" by Maud Grieve (1931): Provides insights into the traditional and contemporary uses of Lungwort, highlighting its role in treating respiratory conditions and its historical significance.


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