Centuries ago, many plants related to Hieracium pilosella were used in traditional herbal treatments all over Europe. Back then, they were consideredmiraculous remedies against lung diseases.Nowadays, even if their popularity has considerably decreased, such plants are still collected and used by some herbalists for their almost forgotten medicinal properties.
The following article will introduce you to the recently rediscovered therapeutical secrets of Hieracium pilosella. Read everything you need to know about its looks, growth, pharmacological indications and use!
More commonly known as “mouse-ear hawkweed” or simply “mouse-ear”, Hieracium pilosella is referred to in the scientific literature under the name of “Pilosella officinarum”. This yellow-flowered species of Asteraceae originates from Europe, but it is quite a frequent sight in northern Asia wildlife as well. It prefers growing on sunny banks, walls and dry pastures, meadows and heaths.
This plant does well on sandy, less fertile soils, while also being encountered as a weed of lawns. Just as other hawkweed species, Hieracium pilosella displays a huge variety according to the medium of growth, developing its citrus colored inflorescences under several dozens subspecies and forms.
You may recognize Hieracium pilosella after its small whitish or reddish hairs that cover all its aerial parts, including its characteristic basal rosette of leaves, somehow similar to the strawberry’s. This small-sized perennial weed reaches between 4 and 12 inches in height. One can admire its bright yellow clusters of flowers with a pale reddish underside from June to September. According to some, these inflorescences bear a strong resemblance to dandelions.
Concerning its foliage, the 0.5 to 5 inches long leaves do not exceed 0.8 inches in width and are covered in white hairs on both sides. The leaves are entire, undivided, colored in grayish green. Moreover, the flower stems are long (ranging from 2 to 20 inches), and leafless, being covered in hairs of a darker shade. The stalk sprouts from the center of the rosette-like arrangement of basal leaves. In early autumn, the flowers mature into small purple to black fruits, which are also covered by white hairs. As Hieracium pilosella propagates mostly by seeds, these fruits are usually dispersed by the wind.
The physiologically-active principles of Hieracium pilosella are to be found exclusively in its aerial parts. Even though they are edible, there are no known culinary uses for them; on the other hand, they have plenty medicinal uses. Thanks to some constituents that enter its chemical composition (piloselin, bitter, tannin, oxycumarin, and umbelliferone), this plant may be used in tinctures, fluid extracts, infusions, or dried and powdered as an excellent antibiotic, diuretic, and astringent agent.
Additionally, Hieracium pilosella has been used in traditional European folk medicine as abronchiolytic, as an antiasthmatic, and as a decongestant of the respiratory tract. For this reason, remedies that have this plant as an ingredient also qualify for antipertussive use. The vulnerary qualities of this plant make it efficient against superficial skin wounds as well.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the antibiotic potential of Hieracium pilosella is only activated if the plant is used fresh. If dried, the plant is only efficient as an astringent. Just to make yourself an idea about its levels of astringency and diuretic efficacy, drinking a cup of infusion in the morning will double the amount of urine you pass during the day.
The whole herb can be brewed into a water infusion which, if sweetened with honey, makes up for a delightful healthy drink recommended to be taken in wineglassful doses in the morning, on an empty stomach. Another way of preparing Hieracium pilosella medicinally is by powdering the dried leaves. This powder is a much appreciated astringent in both external and internal hemorrhage. Patients suffering from hemorrhoids are strongly advised to apply externally either a strong decoction or an extract made from the leaves boiled in milk. After a few days’ treatment the beneficial effects of Hieracium pilosella will surely not go unnoticed.
First and foremost, Hieracium pilosella’s medicinal action concerns the relaxation of the bronchial tubes. This will stimulate the cough reflex, thus reducing the production of mucus while facilitating its elimination. Such a combination of actions is helpful in alleviating various kinds of respiratory troubles, among which one can count asthma, wheeziness, and whooping cough. Other indications include bronchitis, the ordinary common cold, but also some other chronic and congested types of coughs.
This plant differs from all other milky plants of its class by having a less bitter and more astringent juice, which has been much employed medicinally ever since Middle Ages. The astringent properties of Hieracium pilosella are able to narrow down the diameter of blood vessels, thus reducing blood loss.
This is indicated in patients who are coughing blood, in hemorrhages, and in managing heavy menstrual bleeding. In addition, if prepared as a poultice, this plant is occasionally helpful in accelerating the healing processes of superficial skin wounds, cuts, and burns.
Hieracium pilosella is rich in umbelliferone, a chemical compound similar to coumarin in its antibiotic action. Moreover, it is also a frequent active ingredient of sunscreen lotions, preventing the harmful effects of skin exposure to ultraviolet light. Apart from treating disorders of the respiratory tract and preventing bleeding, remedies derived from this plant are also potent diuretics.
The therapeutical benefits of Hieracium pilosella do not stop here – this plant has plenty of other indications. Harvested in May and June (while in flower), it can be used either fresh or dried in the treatment of enteritis, influenza, pyelitis, and cystitis. This herb is considered a good sudorific, tonic, and cholagogue as well.
So far, there have been no reported health hazards while administering Hieracium pilosella. Nevertheless, you should not exceed recommended dosages. Just to make sure you stay on the safe side, ask from specialized medical advice prior to taking any homeopathic remedies derived from this plant.