MEADOWSWEET (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet is a wild plant which inhabits marshy damp meadows. It grows to between 2 and 3 feet tall and has heavily scented, creamy coloured flowers with a frothy appearance. The stem is often a reddish colour, the leaves are dark green on top with a silver green underside.
Contains vitamins C plus iron, magnesium, salicylic acid, silica and tannin.
· Do not take if you have an allergy to aspirin
· Do not take if you are taking any anti-coagulants – such as warfarin
· Not to be taken by people suffering from asthma
Antacid, anticoagulant, antiseptic (internal and external), anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-ulcer, fever breaker, liver cleanser and support, mild diuretic, pain killer
Meadowsweet is a member of the rose family and was once aptly known as Queen of the Meadow. It was also called Bridewort, due to its traditional use in bridal garlands and love potions.
It is one of the first plants I researched for personal medicinal use. I knew it would be the perfect remedy for me, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to find any growing nearby. After two failed attempts to grow it I gave up, eventually moving on to different remedies. After so many years of searching, you can appreciate why its illusiveness had elevated it to almost mythical proportions in my mind. Last Sunday I found some growing less than half a mile away from my home, I was ecstatic and immediately collected some to try. It smells lovely, and I can completely understand why it was a favourite floor strewing plant of Queen Elizabeth I.
My initial interest was in its antacid and painkilling properties - unlike pharmaceutical pain relief it soothes the stomach. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid and, along with white willow, was one of the original plants used to create aspirin. Sadly the stomach calming action was lost when the pain relieving element was extracted, which is why aspirin can irritate the stomach lining.
The plants soothing and antacid properties mean it has traditionally been used for indigestion, wind relief, gastric reflux, hyperacidity and overactive digestive systems. As an internal antiseptic it can calm cystitis, diarrhea, IBS flares and diverticulitis. It is also a common herbal treatment for stomach ulcers.
All of these ailments are traditionally treated with a tea made from either fresh or dried flowers/leaves. I make the tea by either 4 fresh flower heads and one or two leaves per pint of boiling water, or 3 - 4 teaspoons of the dried herb to the pint. I allow the tea to cool and drink half a cup 3 times a day. The tea is bright yellow and has a very complex flavour, probably best described as a palma violet punch followed by an almond/vanilla flavour (which reflect its smell) finishing with an aftertaste reminiscent of germolene. This antiseptic, bitter aftertaste becomes stronger the longer the tea has been brewed.
The action which improves digestion also stimulates a liver detox, therefore improving liver function, which consequently boosts the immune system. It was once a common country remedy for colds, possibly due to its high vitamin C content, along with pain relieving and fever reducing actions. It is also known to heal and protect the membranes of the respiratory system, so was historically used for bronchial conditions.
Meadowsweet is an anti-inflammatory and, combined with its pain relieving properties, it is useful in the treatment of arthritis and similar joint inflammation conditions such as fibromyalgia. It is also an anti-coagulant, meaning it naturally prevents the blood from clotting. The tea is antiseptic and can be used as a cleansing wash or as a gargle for sore throats, mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. It was a folk remedy for cuts, wounds, external ulcers and skin irritations probably due to its antiseptic and silica content which speeds the healing of skin and connective tissues.
With its unique essence the flowers and leaves are used to make mead, beer, wine, and cordial and can also be eaten. The flavour is very floral so if you hated cherry lips, floral gums and palma violet sweets, you probably won’t like the taste of meadow sweet.
The scent is divine and can be dried to make sachets to scent clothes or as part of a homemade potpourri. In fact it is so powerful, I have read several warnings about people freezing it, then finding the scent has flavoured the entire contents of the freezer.
These are some of my personal experiences using Meadowsweet combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.
Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle
LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.