Botanical Name: Filipendula ulmaria
Botanical Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Common Name: Mead-sweet, Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort, Lady of the Meadow
Part Used: aerial portions
Collection: between June-August, at the time of flowering
Organs Affected: liver, bladder, colon
Vital Actions: Anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, stomachic, antacid, anti-emetic, astringent
Active Constituents: Salicylic aldehyde & spireine, methyl salicylate, spiraeine & gaultherin, salycilic acid, tannin, citric acid
Energetics: bitter, astringent, cool
Uses: gout, rheumatism, arthritis, fever, urinary tract infections, soothes mucous membranes of the digestive tract
Contraindications: Do not use if allergic to aspirin, are taking blood-thinner pharmaceuticals, or if you have asthma. Also cautioned for children under 16 who have flu or chickenpox symptoms.
Description, History & Lore:
Meadowsweet is a perennial herb found mostly in Europe and Western Asia, but it has been introduced to eastern North America. It can often be found growing in damp meadows and on moist riverbanks. Its stems are 3-6 feet tall, and it has dark green leaves with an underside which is whitish and downy. Its flowers are tiny, creamy white, five-petaled, and grow in clusters.
The leaves of meadowsweet give off a wintergreen flavor and fragrance, while the flowers are scented with a sweet almond. It is said to have been a favorite “strewing” herb of Queen Elizabeth the First, and it was often used as such in bridal processions, hence one of its common names, Bridewort.
‘The leaves and floures of Meadowsweet farre excelle all other strowing herbs for to decke up houses, to strawe in chambers, halls and banqueting-houses in the summer-time, for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses.’ -John Gerard (The Herball, 1597)
One of Meadowsweet’s most known contributions is its role in the development of the modern-day aspirin. In 1897, Felix Hoffman was able to chemically isolate and alter the salicin component, calling it ‘acetylsalicylic acid’, which was then marketed as aspirin beginning in 1900.
Meadowsweet has been found in many Bronze Age burial sites, and is said to have been one of the sacred herbs of the Druids. In Welsh mythology, it is one of the plants used by the two magicians, Math and Gwydion, in the creation of Blodeuwedd, a woman made of flowers and intended as the bride of Lleu Llaw Gyffes. In Irish mythology, the warrior Cú Chulainn is said to have used meadowsweet in his baths to help soothe his fevered rages. In Scotland, drinking vessels have been found which contain trace elements of herbs such as meadowsweet, royal fern, and heather, leading to the conclusion that it was often used in the brewing of meads and ales.
The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra
The Druid Plant Oracle by Phillip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm
“On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.”– Kenneth Grahame, from Wind in the Willows