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Once regarded as a panacea for all illness, common speedwell, or Veronica officinalis, has failed to demonstrate its efficacy and has lost its esteemed place in modern herbal pharmacopoeia. Veronica officinalis, once used to treat conditions as varied as gout, arthritis, pruritis, otitis media, loss of appetite, skin ulcers, and disorders of the kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, and lungs is now relegated to occasional use as a treatment for cough and skin irritation when other herbs are not available. Despite this, the proprietary formulation for Ricola® cough drops, however, still includes some of the herb. There is some evidence to suggest that due to the high concentration of astringent tannins within the plant, Veronica officinalis may be useful as a treatment for minor bleeding or diarrhea, although as of 2011 there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this claim. When cultivated, this plant is usually appreciated for its role in European medical history and folk medicine and for its subtle beauty as an ornamental plant.
Contemporary herbalists now ascribe to Veronica officinalis many of the same medicinal properties as those of Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata. These herbs are generally used to stop bleeding, relieve minor skin irritation, and accompany other spring tonic herbs in decoctions or extracts to detoxify to blood. While a cleansing tincture for use in the treatment of a sluggish digestion, phlegmy cough, or chronic eczema may be made using an acidic white wine and an equal amount of blended speedwell leaves, many people elect to simply add some of the fresh leaves to their daily salad instead. When used in this way, Veronica officinalis is not known to produce any side effects apart from infrequent gastrointestinal discomfort.
A number of products have entered the market that include Veronica officinalis as their primary ingredient. Intended for use in the repair of damage to the stomach lining, as of 2011 there is no scientific evidence that the plant is useful for this condition. Clinical reports on the use of the herb for this use have also been inconclusive.
Native to Europe and West Asia, Veronica officinalis is native to the same family as other Plantago crop weeds. Naturalized in North America, these species are now widespread, thriving in areas with moist soil of poor quality. Although the small, violet flowers of Veronica officinalis are not particularly showy, the creeping plant is hardy, requires little care, and can thrive in areas where other ornamental plants may not.
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