(adapted from Wayside MedicineBackyard Medicine For All, p170)

The speedwells (Veronica species), according to Mrs Grieve in A Modern Herbal (1931), are some of our most beautiful native flowers. They are small meadow and stream plants that flower in the blue and violet spectrum, looking sparky, neat and vulnerable (they are actually tough wild survivors).

The name ‘speedwell’ has an old meaning of thrive or get better, as in ‘speed you well’. This reflects the medicinal value our ancestors accorded the plants as a panacea or cure-all mainly in tea form. Its uses included as an expectorant for treating bronchitis and asthma, as relief for arthritis and rheumatism, and for haemorrhages, skin, liver and kidneys.

The tea was preferred by the great Linnaeus to black tea, and in the eighteenth century was called thé d’Europe, a substitute on the domestic scale for expensive imported tea from China and India. We find it very restorative when we are feeling weary and tired.

And yes, it does speed you up, as one of our students discovered. She cycled a few miles to a workshop we were holding and the day left her drained. We offered her a speedwell foot bath, and after it she sped home in record time and said she felt energised all evening.

I would like to point out that Speedwell has a great medicinal value for nervousness caused by mental overexertion.
– Maria Treben, Health through God’s Pharmacy (1982)

This little herb [Heath speedwell] has wonderful healing properties seemingly out of proportion to its size.
– Margaret Roberts, Margaret Roberts’ Book of Herbs (1983)

Speedwell foot bath

Use whichever speedwell species is common to you, including germander or brooklime. Make a big pot of strong tea with your plants, then pour the plants and all into a basin large enough to put your feet in. Add hot water to fill the basin enough to submerge your feet. Soak there for 20 minutes, adding more hot water as needed.