At this time of year the damp areas of lanes and water meadows are covered with frothy clouds of Meadowsweet. Meadowsweet or Filipendula ulmaria is a very important herb for my clinic. Like other damp dwelling plants it contains salicylates, although at a level of only 0.5% it is a less important natural source than Willow or Poplar which boast 11% and 13% respectively. Meadowsweet comes into its own as an anti-inflammatory which has a specific action against inflammation and ulceration of the stomach, especially when combined with demulcent herbs such as Liquorice or Marshmallow. It is rich in flavonoids and tannins and it works very well to help treat generalised inflammatory conditions associated with arthritis and gout.
As well as being such a good anti-inflammatory it has the very useful property of helping to remove acidity from the body. This no doubt contributes to its action against gout and arthritis.
Commercially available sources are the entire tops of the plant ie leaves, stems and flowers, but I prefer to gather only the flowers. I can honestly say that I have had such good results using them that I am not going to change anytime soon. So there’s nothing for it but to gather my own each year. It’s not a hardship really as it gives me an excuse to wander by the river on a sunny summer’s evening filling my basket with the gorgeous strong smelling blooms.
I say ‘strong’ smelling’ because once they’re in the dehydrator they give off a characteristic nitrogenous scent which I think is reminiscent of the glue sticks used at primary school for cutting and sticking. One of the old country names for Meadowsweet is ‘Courtship and Marriage’. Apparently this refers to the sweet smell when the plant is growing but once plucked the scent changes to the more pungent nitrogenous one. I prefer the more flattering name ‘Queen of the Meadow’. When you come around a corner and see a whole water meadow of this plant in flower it really takes your breath away.
Meadowsweet holds a special place in my heart as it is one of the first wild herbs that I learnt to gather all those years ago when I first started on my herbal journey. It is a great herb to start with as it is easily recognised and there is little danger of confusing it with any other species. I used to drink Meadowsweet infusion for headaches on account of the salicylates but now I know that I was only touching the surface of what this herb can do.
Why not get in touch with your inner forager and go out and find some Meadowsweet? Use it to make yourself a cup of herb tea and acquaint yourself with the ‘Queen of the Meadows’. Alternatively you can join me for a foraging course and learn about other wild medicinal herbs at the same time.
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