Heather contains tannins, arbutin, saponins, karotin, and the flavonoids quercitrin and myricitrin. It also contains the alkaloid ericodin.
This herb is an ancient remedy for urinary tract problems. It is thought to be good for inflammation of the urinary passages, prostate problems, such as prostate enlargement, bladder ailments and kidney stones.
In recent years heather has been used successfully, especially in Germany, to treat rheumatic pains.
The reason for this is probably because it contains a substance that removes excess uric acid from the body. Heather works well as both an antiseptic and detoxifier.
A hot poultice made from the flowering tips has been used as a treatment for chilblains, a foot condition.
Heather has also traditional uses as a mild sedative and as a sleep aid, usually in the form of tea. But as the herb can act as a diuretic, it is not wise to overdo the intake of the tea before going to bed.
In Telemark, Norway, there are reports that this herb was used as a hemostatic. Seeing bears wallowing in shrubs of heather when they were wounded might have led to this understanding.
In Scotland, the white flower variety of heather is a symbol for good luck and is often used in bridal bouquets in traditional Scottish weddings. In Norway, there is a saying: “Where one can find white heather, there has been a crime.”