Sweet Smelling Meadowsweet

This fragrant, honey-scented plant has been used in Scotland for over 5000 years to flavour mead, cordials and in herbal teas as Nature's aspirin.

By Catriona Stewart PhD
Napiers Glasgow Clinic

Scotland at this time of year is lush; the meadows, hedgerows and woodlands are alive with a wealth of medicinal plants, and the air is fragrant with their flowers.

One of my great favourites is Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, very aptly named in English as it grows abundantly in meadows, along the edges of canals, streams and ditches. Its creamy white fronds of flowering heads send out a delicious sweet scent with a distinct medicinal tang. That scented edge is created by one of modern medicine’s great discoveries, a form of salicylic acid, which in its synthesised form of acetylsalicylic acid is otherwise known as aspirin, invented some 37 years after Napiers opened.

Unlike aspirin, the salicylic acid in Meadowsweet does not have an irritant effect on the lining of the gastric tract and stomach that the pharmaceutical aspirin does and so herbalists use Meadowsweet specifically for problems of over-acidity in the digestion and for stomach ulcers. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory and is often used in conjunction with other plant medicines such as White Willow bark and Black Cohosh for muscular-skeletal pain.

As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.

You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.

If you would like to read more on aspirin, then there is a detailed article available on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin 

Catriona Stewart PhD MSc is a trained practitioner herbalist and member of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy based in Napiers Glasgow tel: 0772 940 1111

How to Make Meadowsweet Cordial

Watch Monica Wilde's video on how to make yourself a Meadowsweet Cordial on our Napiers YouTube channel.

You can buy dried Meadowsweet flowers and leaf from our online herbal dispensary, but even better, get out for a walk on a lovely Summer's day and pick your own.