Agrimony
Common Names

Cocklebur, Church Steeples, Sticklewort
Botanical Name
Agrimonia eupatoria
Family
ROSACEAE

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What is it?

The dried leaves of Agrimony, a perennial, deep-green herb covered with soft hairs and with a mild, pleasantly aromatic scent. Agrimony has burrs that have the ability to catch onto wool or clothing and it can grow to nearly a metre bearing beautiful long spikes of bright yellow flowers.


FLOWERS


DRIED


SEEDS

How has it been used?

The name Agrimony is derived from the Greek 'argemone' which was a word that was used to denote a herb that was good for the eyes. Agrimony has been used as a 'spring drink' to help with cleansing and in some parts of the world it is drunk with meals as a refreshing and pleasant beverage.

Pliny the Elder described Agrimony as a 'herb of sovereign power.' The English herbalist Gerard said of Agrimony 'a decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers' and the Roman physician Dioscorides said that it was 'not only a remedy for them that have bad livers but also for those who are bitten by serpents.'

Thomas Bartram says of Agrimony that it 'helps the assimilation of food and is good for indigestion, weak acid stomach and a sluggish liver.' Simon Mills says Agrimony is good for 'irritations and infections of the intestinal tract, especially in children, and for gall-bladder disease associated with gastric hyperacidity.'

Although these days it is hardly thought of as having properties that affect the nerves Agrimony was once upon a time highly regarded for its ability to help achieve a deep and restful sleep. An ancient rhyme went:
'If it (
Agrimony) be leyd under mann's head,
He shal sleepyn as he were dead;
He shal never drede ne wakyn
Til fro under his head it be takyn.'


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Science on Agrimony

~ A member of the Rose family; Agrimony is rich in bitters, mucilage, phytosterols and tannins. In laboratory experiments it was found that extracts of Agrimony were seen to have a blood pressure lowering effect as well as to hasten blood coagulation by stimulating platelet formation.

~ Again in experimental models it was seen that Agrimony had a cardiotonic effect, in high doses slowing the heart beat and in low doses having a regulatory effect.

Safety of Agrimony

Agrimony is really an entirely safe herb that can be used as freely and frequently as required. Agrimony teas and tinctures can be used with confidence by all ages and by pregnant or breast-feeding women.

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Personal experiences

Agrimony is marvellous to use in a tea form where even just a tsp or two, perhaps mixed with other digestive or tonic herbs, conveys a healing action that is as deep as it is gentle. I especially like to use Agrimony for people who have had long-standing problems in their liver or digestive health where we want to use a tonic that will be potent but extremely gentle.

How Agrimony works on the inside is just how it works on the outside and a way to immediately experience how soothing and healing a herb Agrimony can be is where one or both of the eyes are burning or itchy and some of the freshly made but sufficiently cooled tea are either dropped into or used to bathe the affected eye(s) - instant relief is highly likely and this can be repeated as often as needed until the condition resolves.

Similarly to quickly see its healing action on the skin where there are hives or any other kind of inflammatory eruption one can make a tea of Agrimony using several tsps to about 2 cups of boiling water, covered and allowed to steep for 15 minutes, then cooled and sprayed onto the affected areas. Again there will likely be some significantly soothing effects that should be felt immediately.

If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or have your own reasons to want to understand this plant ally at a much deeper level then I warmly encourage you to take a cup of Agrimony leaf tea of a small dose of its tincture and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, observe for yourself how it makes you feel. This old method of 'experiential' learning may give you a greater appreciation of the herb's 'action' than any amount of academic learning about it. Speaking for myself I can feel a rather lovely spreading effect from the herb that starts in my throat and slowly moves down into my chest and upper abdomen and it helps me to understand very directly how Agrimony can bring tone to tissues. It is a herb that will not wear out its welcome and can be used as freely and frequently as required.

I see Agrimony working particularly well in combination with other healing herbs such as Calendula, Plantain, Limeflowers & the great Chamomile. The dosage to gets the benefits of Agrimony do not seem to have to be very high; a tsp or two of the dried herb, a ml or two of the tincture.

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Personal experience of Phyllis Light - American Herbalist

"The taste of agrimony is sweet, acrid, and a little bitter. I often have the client taste the herb, just a drop of tincture or a sip of decoction, if agrimony tastes sweet, then there's a good chance they will respond positively to the tension-relieving properties of the herb. If it tastes acrid, then they will more than likely respond to the astringent properties.

Some clients may respond to all the tastes of agrimony, especially since the taste strikes in layers, one taste predominating over the others. The first few tastes may be sweet, but then the acridity comes in for a while and then the bitter strikes a note or vice versa.

One client told me she could actually feel the lymph nodes in her neck quiver and then relax, drainage followed. I also use agrimony to relieve tension in the liver, the bladder and in the gut. I think it helps folks who are really tense and stressed, who are constipated, have poor ability to sleep, and slow moving digestion. The slow-moving digestion is from constriction and tenseness in the bowels and gut lymphatics. The tissues relax and movement occurs.

Agrimony is also good for children who wet the bed because they are so afraid they are going to wet the bed that they do."

Phyllis Light

Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Agrimony is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.

There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Agrimony shows itself as a gentle, toning herb that can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.

Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898

Agrimony is a mild tonic, alterative, and astringent. A decoction of it is highly recommended in bowel complaints, leucorrhoea, chronic mucous diseases, chronic affections of the digestive organs, profuse bleedings, of an asthenic character, certain cutaneous diseases, icterus, etc.

A strong decoction, sweetened with honey, is reputed curative in scrofula, if its use be persisted in for a length of time; and it has also been highly extolled in the treatment of gravel, asthma, coughs, and obstructed menstruation.

Dr. D. C. Payne speaks highly of a continued use of a decoction of this plant in the treatment of erysipelas and scrofulous affections, to be used freely, in connection with diet and regularity of the bowels. It is also reputed to be valuable as a diuretic, and has been considered a specific in dropsy and in gonorrhoea. As a gargle, the decoction is useful in ulcerations of the mouth and throat.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd