What is Meadowsweet?
Anybody who has ever seen this beautiful plant growing wild will know exactly why it is also referred to as the Queen of the Meadow. The plant with its brilliant white flowers typically dominates the meadow wherever it grows.
The green parts of the plant are aromatically fragrant with a scent similar to almonds and in the past, the plant was used to expel unpleasant odors from homes and churches.
Meadowsweet which has the scientific name Filipendula ulmaria was also used in times gone by to add flavor to mead, wines, and vinegar. The plant is found in various parts of the world and is abundant in Europe and parts of Asia. In North America, meadowsweet is often used as an ornamental garden plant which adds a delightful, sweet fragrance to the garden.
The plant grows quickly in damp meadow lands and flowers in the summer between June and September.
History of the Plant
Meadowsweet has a long and distinguished history of medicinal use and is mentioned in some of the most famous literary works of the middle ages. According to records, meadowsweet was one of the most sacred and important herbs for the Celtic druids.
It is also mentioned in Chaucer’s great work appearing in the Knight’s tale part of the Canterbury tales. (though I did not find it so great when I was forced to study it at school).
It has also been mentioned in various herbal compendiums including those written by Culpepper and Gerard. It was known to be rich in salicylic acid which is effective for pain relief and was touted many centuries ago as being an excellent remedy for moderate pain especially pain in a fixed area of the body. It was also used to relieve headaches and pounding in the temples
The Native Americans mashed the root and powdered it to make a decoction which they combined with yarrow to relieve nausea and pain.
According to historical writings, meadowsweet also has cooling properties and was able to promote better circulation. It was also known to have anti-inflammatory actions suitable for the relief of arthritis and chronic joint pain.
It was also taken daily in tincture or tea form to relieve stomach ache, nausea, and reflux. It was also known to help improve general digestion and stimulate the digestive process.
Facts about Meadowseet
- Meadowsweet belongs to the same family as roses and is originally from Europe and Western Asia.
- It is a perennial plant meaning that it survives 2 years or more in the wild.
- It is now abundant in many other parts of the world including the USA.
- People cultivate the plant for ornamental purposes but it also has a range of medicinal uses.
- The common name – meadowsweet was given because it was used to flavor the alcoholic drink – mead which is made from honey and water.
- It has also been used to flavor wine, beer, and vinegar
- Chefs still use meadowsweet as a flavoring agent for jams, sorbets, soups and fruit salads.
- It is also known as ‘bridewort’ because it was used in bridal garlands and scattered in wedding ceremonies.
- During the Middle Ages, it was also used to repel lice and fleas from the home and to mask foul smells around the house.
- The flowers are still used for their pleasant fragrance to make potpourris.
- Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is the major active ingredient in aspirin. In fact, salicylic acid was originally isolated from the plant back in the nineteenth century.
- When it comes to its medicinal uses, meadowsweet contains active compounds that can reduce inflammation, treat fevers and colds, diarrhea and rheumatism.
- It can also be used to improve digestive health.
- The roots are used to make a black dye.
Medicinal Benefits of Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet contains a number of medicinal compounds including flavonoids, phenolic glycosides, and quercetin glycoside. Kaempferol and quercetin have also been isolated from the plant while hyperoside is present in its leaves and its stalks. Other constituents present in the plant include acid esters and a high tannin content. Meadowsweet also contains salicylates including methyl salicylate and salycilic acid.
Meadowsweet has several medicinal properties including antioxidant, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic and tonic actions which give the herb a good range of practical uses. The following are some of the most common medicinal uses for meadowsweet.
For Colds and Respiration
Meadowsweet is used and has been used for many years to help treat colds and the associated symptoms. Although there are no clinical trials to verify its efficacy, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions of the herb make it a potentially effective remedy. The roots of the plant have also been utilized to help treat a range of respiratory disorders including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and sore throats.
For Indigestion and Ulcers
Meadowsweet can be used as a general digestive tonic but it is also effective in relieving acid indigestion. Studies have found that the stomach’s inner lining is protected by the herb while it also provides positive anti-inflammatory effects die to the salicylate content of the herb.
Studies done on animals have also demonstrated that meadowsweet may be an effective treatment against peptic ulcers. One study conducted on rats found that the herb promoted healing of chronic ulcers and also prevented lesions from developing in the stomach. (2)
For Joint Pain and Arthritis
In traditional folk medicine, meadowsweet was used as a remedy for joint pain and inflammation including rheumatism, arthritis and gout. Because of its salicylate content, meadowsweet can help reduce inflammation in the joints while its analgesic properties can also help ease any pain suffered. According to traditional use, meadowsweet also helps improve the health of the connective tissues.
Laboratory research has revealed that extracts of meadowsweet flowers were effective against a range of bacterial infection. According to research, meadowsweet can help destroy harmful infections including Staphylococcus aureus, E. Coli, Proteus vulgaris and Staphylococcus epidermidis. (2)
The salicylic acid found in meadowsweet is also a well-known disinfectant that has been used to treat various skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema and acne while meadowsweet is also considered to be a urinary antiseptic. Other studies have found that meadowsweet was effective against the growth of another dangerous bacteria – Helicobacter pylori. (3)
According to research into the medicinal abilities of the plant, meadowsweet possesses strong antioxidant properties which can help your overall health.
Antioxidants can significantly reduce your risk of developing serious diseases including heart disease, cancer and degenerative brain conditions. The antioxidants present in the plant can reverse the damage caused by free radicals and protect against oxidative stress.
As well as laboratory studies, animal studies have also demonstrated the antioxidant value of the herb. In one study, mice with hepatitis that were fed a meadowsweet extract for a period of 5 days benefited significantly from both the liver protective and antioxidant properties of the plant. (4)
Fever and Pain
Meadowsweet is also renowned for its ability to ease pain and soothe fevers. A small quantity of the plant’s root may be very effective in treating migraines and headaches. According to proponents, it is likely effective because of the analgesic compounds found in the herb which have an effect similar to aspirin.
As well as helping to improve digestion and relieve acid, meadowsweet has been effectively used to treat diarrhea in both adults and children. There are very few known side effects associated with the herb but you should certainly consult an expert before trying it with very young children.
Meadowsweet also has natural diuretic properties meaning that it can increase both the quantity of urine produced and the frequency of urination. It may be a safe and effective natural alternative to pharmaceutical water pills. Diuretics are prescribed for a variety of ailments including kidney conditions and urinary tract infections and are also used by people trying to shed excess fluid.
Many people recommend taking meadowsweet in the form of a tea to treat conditions like edema or elevated blood pressure. A tea made from meadowsweet helps eliminate sodium from the body as well as excess water.
Boost the Immune System
it goes without saying that a healthy immune system is a key to overall health and vitality. A strong immune system can help you avoid seasonal colds and flus and keep your body healthy enough to fight off illness. Meadowsweet can help boost your immune system because of the phenolic compounds it contains.
According to research, meadowsweet contains various phenolic compounds including a recently discovered flavonoid called ulmarioside. Research shows that this compound can potentially inhibit the proliferation of T-cells and inhibit the production of harmful free radicals keeping your body in the shape it needs to be in to stay healthy.
Meadowsweet is full of powerful antioxidants that can help keep your skin looking younger and healthier. Natural antioxidants can help reverse damage to the cells and protect against many of the signs of aging like wrinkles and other blemishes. It may also help protect against damage done by UV rays.
Apart from its antioxidant benefits on the skin, meadowsweet has astringent properties which can help tighten up the skin and keep it looking taut and healthy even as you get older. The salicylic acid found in meadowsweet also helps destroy the bacteria that can cause acne and pimples.
How to Use Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet is typically taken in tea or tincture form. The most often recommended dose is between 2.5 and 3.5 grams of the flower each day or between 4 and 5 grams of the herb.
There are no clinical trials to verify the safety of these doses however and it is best to seek expert advice if you are unsure. You can prepare a delicious, therapeutic tea with between 4 and 5 grams of the dried herb. It is generally considered to be safe to drink this tea up to 3 times each day however there are some minor safety concerns that you can read about below.
Precautions and Side Effects
- By and large, meadowsweet is regarded to be safe for consumption but there are a few safety precautions that you need to be aware of.
- People with a sensitivity to sulfite or salicylate should avoid using meadowsweet.
- The herb should be used with caution by people with asthma.
- Pregnant women should avoid using meadowsweet because there is some evidence that the herb can cause utero-activity.
- Nursing mothers should also avoid taking the herb.
- There is a chance that meadowsweet can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Because of the plant’s salicylate content, it might increase the chances of bleeding in patients who are taking certain medications like anticoagulants or NSAIDs.
Meadowsweet is a beautiful plant with a beautiful name with a very long, illustrious history. While meadowsweet is still cultivated for the garden, research is starting to show that its benefits go way beyond aesthetics.
Meadowsweet contains a wide variety of medicinal compounds like quercetin glycosides, tannins, flavonoids and salicylates giving the plant a host of medicinal benefits from treating inflammation to curing colds and improving digestive health.
If you have ever used meadowsweet for any medicinal reasons, we would love to hear how effective it was or otherwise. If you have never used it before, why not give it a try and let us know how it worked out for you. Good luck.
(1) Barnaulov OD, Denisenko PP. Anti-ulcer action of a decoction of the flowers of the dropwort, Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim [in Russian]. Farmakol Toksikol . 1980;43(6):700-705.
(2) Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:191-192.