MEADOWSWEET
Common Names

Meadowsweet, Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort
Botanical Name
Filipendula ulmaria
Family
ROSACEAE ~ Rose Family

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What is it?

Meadowsweet is a long lived (perennial) herb that likes to grow in damp meadows and is native to both Europe and Asia. In herbal medicine both the leaves and flowers are used and both have a characteristic strong and sweet-smelling scent.


FLOWERS


PLANT


DRIED

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How has it been used?

Meadowsweet has long been used to help soothe and heal damage to the gut wall, particularly as evidenced by gastric ulcers or reflux. It has been seen to calm down an overactive digestive system and was frequently used as a tea for indigestion. Meadowsweet also has a traditional reputation for treating urinary stones, rheumatism, liver disorders, excess gas and bad breath.

The eclectic physicians of the 18th and 19th centuries considered Meadowsweet an 'excellent astringent to diarrhoea, less offensive to the stomach than other agents of its kind'. They also widely prescribed it for menstrual cramps and genito-urinary tract infections.

Grieves writes 'it is a valuable medicine in diarrhoea, almost a specific in children's diarrhoea, imparting to the bowels some degree of nourishment as well as of astringency, it is also considered a good corrector of the stomach and is frequently used in affections of the blood'

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Science on Meadowsweet

~ Meadowsweet was used in an ointment for 48 women with cervical dysplasia. A complete remission was recorded in 25 cases and a positive response in 32 women in all. No recurrence was observed in 10 of the women after 12 months. The study does not say how long they used the ointment for but it is presumed it was a single course (Peresun'ko AP, Bespalov VG, Limarenko AI et al. Vopr Onkol 1993;39(7-12):291-295)

~ When studied in the laboratory Meadowsweet demonstrates a strong and active chemistry that clearly acts on pathways of inflammation and immune system health and this has been suggested as the reason it has developed a high reputation for the treatment of inflammatory diseases (Halkes SBA, Beukelman CJ, Kroes BH et al. Phytother Res 1998; 11:518-520)

~ An anticoagulant activity for extracts of Meadowsweet flowers has been demonstrated which is thought to be due to a heparin-like substance in the plant (Kudryashov BA, Lyapina LA, Konfsshevskaya VM et al. Vestn Moskovskogo Universiteta Seriya Xvi Biologiya 1994;(3):15-17)

~ Laboratory studies have shown that Meadowsweet has potent antimicrobial actions against an array of common sources of infection: Sthaphylococcus aureus haemolyticus, Streptococcus pyogenes haemolyticus, Escherichia coli, Shigella flexneri, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis. (Csedo K, Monea M, Sabau M et al. Planta Med 1993;59(suppl 7):A675)

Safety of Meadowsweet

There are no adverse reactions reported for Meadowsweet despite widespread use in many parts of the world. A modern appreciation of the potential for salicylates to cause allergy or issues with excess bleeding but it may not be wise to extrapolate any of this to Meadowsweet because the nature of the plant is such that those active ingredients are absorbed much more slowly than a drug like version of the same compounds. Generally Meadowsweet is regarded as very safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding and certainly a safe herb for the very young or old.

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Personal experiences

I have mostly used and mainly think of Meadowsweet as the best herb (or one of the best herbs) to use for an over-acidic stomach. If people are getting some acidic taste come into their mouths, or are getting frequent bouts of ‘heartburn’ then I have seen that Meadowsweet can work very quickly to provide therapeutic relief.

If I am using Meadowsweet in a formula to treat gastritis or some other kind of indigestion then I will generally give a dose range (e.g. anything from 20 drops all the way up to 4 or 5mls) and a frequency range (anything from once a day up to 5 or 6 times in a day).

It is a very safe herb to take in high doses for a short periods of time so I get my patients to understand that they need to ‘work’ with the herb to find the level that obviously gets the result they need.

I think it is probably very useful to use for sudden diarrhoea, especially in children but people come to see me with chronic problems that are not resolving by themselves and diarrhoea that is of a lasting nature initially needs more exploration than treatment (chronic gut infection, food allergy or deep-set tension being the three most common causes)

It may just be a matter of personal taste but I find Meadowsweet rather hard to take as a medicine and it surprises me that people have been so willing to use it as a tea in the past and that it is often written up as both pleasant smelling and tasting! Nevertheless when I take some Meadowsweet with an open and quiet mind and get over my own mild aversion to its astringency then I can understand why it has been so well rated as a digestive remedy for acidity and over-activity. Meadowsweet has a pronounced ‘coating’ feel to it; it lingers on your tongue for what seems like forever and it no doubt does the same kind of protective wrapping around a tender stomach lining or an agitated bowel.

If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or have your own reasons to want to get to know this plant ally much more deeply then I urge you to do the same experiment for yourself. Whether you simply like it more than me will of course be a matter of personal taste but I can assure you that, drinking a cup of Meadowsweet or taking a dose of its tincture with a quiet and attentive mind will do more to help you truly understand its 'action' than any amount of an academic appreciation of the plant!

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Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Meadowsweet 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 Meadowsweet can particularly offer its benefits when a relaxing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.

Folklore notes

The meadowsweet is one of the best known wildflowers; its virtues have been known since the time of Dioscorides. The fragrant creamy white flowers have an almond scent of which Gerard writes "for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses".

One of Meadowsweet’s other common names, Bridewort, came both from it being used to make bridal garlands and also from the custom of strewing the herb on the floor for festivals and weddings.

Another of its common names, Queen of the Meadow, comes from the way it can pop up its pretty flowers and dominate over a low-lying meadow. The flowers are certainly lovely and have obviously been highly appreciated over the centuries for their beauty as well as their scent.  

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