HERB OF THE MONTH – JULY
MEADOWSWEET (Filipendula ulmaria) – earlier latin name Spiraea ulmaria
Country names: Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort and Meadwort – an old name mentioned by Chaucer
Family: Rose – Rosaceae – Tall (to 120cm), native plant flowering June-Sept , found in damp fields and river banks – see identification below. Parts used : flowering tops and leaves
Herbal actions: anti inflammatory, antacid, astringent
Used in Herbal Medicine for: Used mainly for heartburn, acid reflux and
inflammation of the stomach and duodenum – for this purpose Herbalists often combine it with other herbs such as chamomile and/or mallow root. Externally, its anti-inflammatory action helps to relieve stiff and aching joints and muscles. Makes a good salve, especially when combined with other healing herbs such as comfrey – see my website for further details if you wish to obtain such a salve.
Has also been used in the past – to flavour mead, wine, beer and syrups. During the middle ages it was used as a strewing herb – aromatic herbs used to impart an attractive scent to floors.
Salicylic acid was isolated from Meadowsweet (and white willow) in the mid 19th century and this was then synthesised into acetyl-salicylic acid to produce the drug Aspirin. The old latin name for Meadowsweet – Spiraea ulmaria played its part in the naming of the drug. Unlike aspirin Meadowsweet is not irritating to the stomach, the plant used in is whole form contains a wide variety of compounds, especially tannins which counteract any irritating aspects of isolated extracts of the plant.
Contains: Salicylates, phenols, tannins and flavanoids
Cautions: Do not combine with blood thinning medications. Also avoid if allergic to Aspirin or sensitive to salicylates.
Identification: A common herb, found throughout most of the UK. Likes damp areas of fields, beside streams. Grows 60-120cm high. The delicate, creamy coloured flowers are held in frothy bunches, the individual flowers are tiny and made up of five petals – they have a pleasant, almond-like aroma. It is in flower from mid to late June until end of September to October. The leaves are finely toothed and grow opposite each other on red tinged stalks, forming a pinnate arrangement – the end leaf shaped as a compound three lobed leaf. The main leaves are a pointed oval shape and are around 8cm long. The main leaves are interspersed with pairs of tiny leaves approx 1-4mm (a feature common to the rose family). The upper-side of the leaves is dark green and hairless. Underneath the leaves are pale green to white and are downy. The flower stem is rounded and branches out at the top. The leaves have a distinctive smell – a cross between antiseptic and cucumber.