Life on Distant Hill Blog ... Shinleaf

Is There a Drugstore in Your Backyard?

Shinleaf flowers blooming in early July at Distant Hill Gardens.
Shinleaf flowers blooming in early July

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is a native perennial wildflower that can be found growing in the woods of Distant Hill Gardens. It is an evergreen herb, 5-10 inches high with a slender, branching rootstock that produces a set of basal, dark green, ovate to elliptical leaves.


The naked flower stalk bears from 7-15 white, waxy, drooping, greenish-white flowers, which smell like lily-of-the-valley and bloom in early summer here in southern New Hampshire.


Shinleaf is also known as Waxflower Shinleaf or Wild Lily-of-the-valley.


Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) in our woods.
Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) in our woods.

It contains a drug closely related to aspirin. The leaves reportedly have analgesic properties and were used as a poultice on bruised shins and other sores and wounds. Such a leaf plaster was referred to as a shin plaster. Tea made from the plant is said to have been used by some native American tribes as a treatment for epileptic fits, rheumatism, indigestion, and sore throats.


I have read that Shinleaf can be propagated by root cuttings or runner divisions. If young plants are containerized, they can be brought inside in late winter to hasten growth. I think I may give it a try. It sounds like it would make a good addition to the medicine cabinet!