Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) is a common wild herb that is also known under names such as burdock, gastric, potentilla, pectoral or kings herb. In the Middle Ages the agrimony was considered a very powerful medicinal plant, the among others was used for indigestion or severe coughing. In modern times, the plant has lost much of its old shine and was rarely used. In recent years, naturopathy has rediscovered the old medicinal herb and likes to use it for diarrhea or inflammation.
Profile of Agrimony:
Scientific name: Agrimonia eupatoria
Plant family: rosaceae, rose family
Other names: common agrimony, church steeples or sticklewor
Sowing time / Planting time: October – March
Flowering period: June – September
Harvest time: May – September
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: nutrient-poor, calcareous and well aerated soils
Use as a medicinal herb: diarrhea, gastrointestinal complaints, bile problems, bladder and kidney weakness, gingivitis
Use as aromatic herb: no special use
Plant characteristics and classification of Agrimony
The agrimony is quite easy to distinguish in nature from other herbs and to quickly track down in nature with a little experience.
Origin and distribution of the agrimony
The common agrimony, sometimes referred to as small agrimony, is native to Europe and Asia Minor and today populates almost the entire northern hemisphere except the Arctic regions.
The botanical name of the agrimony Agrimonia is translated from Latin with field resident and refers to the location. Agrimony is a relatively undemanding plant and is quite common as a wild hrb. It can be found mainly on poor grassland (nutrient-poor meadows) and at forest edges as well as on the edge of agricultural land and hedgerows. It prefers loamy and calcareous sites. In the mountains it is to be found in about 1500 meters.
Systematics of Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
The common agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) belongs to the family of the rose family (Rosaceae) and is therefore mainly related to herbs such as meadowsweet or the burnet. The genus agrimony (Agrimonia) includes 15 species according to the current state of science. In addition to the common agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) described here, the fragrant agrimony (Agrimonia procera) is found in Germany as a well-known species.
Characteristics of the agrimony
The agrimony is an undemanding, perennial, hardy and restant plant that can reach heights of growth up to 1.20 meters (47 inches). On average, heights reach between 60 and 100 cm (24 and 39 inches). It forms strongly rooted rhizome systems, out of which grow each the stem axes.
The light to dark green leaves are arranged alternately and have an elongated and pinnate form. The size of the leaves increases from bottom to top. The length of the leaves is up to 20 cm (8 inches). Also the leaves and the shoot axes are slightly hairy.
The small, clearly yellow flowers sit in the form of ears on the upper part of the plant. The flowers, which usually appear between July to September, have an intense fragrant scent. The perianth, furthermore, is relatively small with about 10 mm (0.04 inches).
The agrimony forms at the time of fruit ripening (late August to September) burdocks. Due to the small hooked fruits, the seeds are mainly spread by animals.
Sow and plant
Agrimony is relatively easy to grow and requires little care for good site selection.
The agrimony prefers partially shaded to sunny locations with nutrient-poor, loose and calcareous soils. The herb is relatively undemanding and also suitable for dry locations. Inasmuch as it is planted with commercially available potting soil, the addition of garden lime is strongly recommended.
The seeds are best sown in March on the field or on the balcony. It is also possible to sow the seeds in autumn (mid-October), as the herb is a cold germ and requires longer phases with low temperatures for germination. The plant germinates in the dark. The seeds should be covered with soil about 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) deep when sowing. When planting several plants, a planting distance of at least 40 x 40 cm (15 x 15 inches) should be maintained, otherwise nutrient competition will occur. A pot culture on the balcony or terrace is only recommended because of the very long rhizome systems if the planters have a fairly large volume.
The herb requires relatively little nutrients. Therefore, as a fertilizer, some addition of compost or some organic long-term fertilizer (horn shavings) are enough. Fertilization should be repeated approximately every 3 months, as long as the agrimony grows on relatively sandy soils.
Wintering measures do not have to be taken because the agrimony has a high frost tolerance. The leaves fall off towards autumn and form again in the following spring.
Agrimony and its use
The agrimony is a rather unknown herb in the kitchen. It is used primarily as a medicinal plant today.
Agrimony in the kitchen
As a culinary delicacy, agronomy is not well-known. The taste is perceived as clearly acrimonious and comes except for the fresh, young leaves in the spring with comparatively hard to chew green leaf.
Agrimony as a medicinal herb
The agrimony is an old medicinal plant that has been partially forgotten in modern times. However, it still plays a major role in folk medicine and in many homeopathic and general naturopathic applications.
Medical application in antiquity and the Middle Ages
Far more successful than in the kitchen is agronomic in the plant therapy. A name that inevitably and conspicuously related to the weeds is Mithridates VI (120 to 63 BC). The Greek-born warrior was nicknamed Eupator and was enthusiastic with the multifarious uses of the agrimony for a variety of ailments and diseases. Accordingly in his honor, the name eupatoria can be found in the botanical name of the wild herb.
Agrimony has been a commonly used medicinal plant in the past centuries. Already in the record of the Greek physician Pedanios Dioscurides (~ 40 to 90 BC) and Pliny the Elder (23 to 79), a Roman polymath, the healing power was described. Many years later, the German Benedictine nun and medically skilled Hildegard von Bingen dealt with it as a medicinal herb.
In the more recent herbal books of the Middle Ages (for example P. Matthioli, L. Fuchs) the agrimony is usually used to treat liver problems and to strengthen them. Matthioli also recommended it for coughing and fever, as well as for the treatment of external wounds. As an application, agrimony was either boiled in wine, heated with water (tea) or mixed with lard. In the herbal book by L. Fuchs it is also recommended for the treatment of bloody flux (dysentery).
Today’s medicinal use of the agrimony
In recent years, the advantages of the agrimony have become more in focus again. The leaves contain many interesting ingredients, which today include. used in the following complaints:
- spasmodic stomach problems
- liver ailments
- inflammatory bowel disease
- Inflammation of the vocal cords
- Inflammation in the mouth and throat
- nervous restlessness / trepidation
- Bladder and kidney weakness
The medically active ingredients include, in particular, the essential oils and tannins, which are said to have an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, astringent effect. The astringent effect is mainly used for inflammation of the skin.
For medicinal purposes, the whole plant is used (except the root system) and preferably drunk as a tea or used as a compress. Tinctures are usually used for digestive complaints.
Brewed as a hot drink (tea), come on a teaspoon of dried agrimony about 250 to 300 ml (8 to 10 fl oz) of boiling water. The tea is allowed to infuse for 10 minutes. The tea should not be consumed daily more than three cups, since the agrimony has plenty of tannins that can go with overdose with stomach problems. For compresses used externally, the same amount of herb and water is used and the brew allowed to stand until it has cooled lukewarm. In addition to the possibility as a hot drink or skin compress, agrimony-tea is also recommended as a gargle solution.
The anti-inflammatory effect is also associated with the tanning of the agrimony. Tannins not only dehydrate, but also alter the protein structure of bacteria and viruses that cause inflammation and cause it to be destroyed. Also antioxidant attributes are caused due to the high polyphenol content.
In this respect, agrimony is administered in a variety of inflammations, eg. in inflammation of the throat, gums, kidney and bladder infections. Even with other complaints such as mild diarrhea or loss of appetite, agrimony as a tea administered can relieve discomfort. However, the tea should be consumed with a time interval of two hours (and not more than three cups a day) if other medicines are also taken; because: Agrimony interferes the effects of medicine.
According to some sources, it is also used in liver and gall bladder complaints. The contained bitter substances in the plant as well as some tannins underpin this. In folk medicine the agrimony is used against liver diseases or generally against indigestion as tea in conjunction with lab herb and wormwood.
Skin compresses soaked in agrimony provide relief for itchy skin.
TCM and bach flower therapy
In traditional Chinese medicine the agrimony is called a exhilarating and harmonizing plant. The herb has an invigorating effect on the stomach Qi and is therefore also used for a number of gastrointestinal diseases. As organs related, in addition to the stomach, the compound liver and gall bladder, the kidney, and the compound spleen and pancreas are considered.
Agrimony is also used in Bach flower therapy (Bach flowers No. 1 – Agrimony) or in the trauma therapy. There, the herb is supposed to help overcome repressions and fears that have been shaped, for example, in early childhood or have occurred in the course of fate.
Buy agrimony – What is there to pay attention to?
Among the most important criteria that are crucial when buying is that the plants are strong and lush green. The variety Agrimonia odorata emits a subtle scent of honey. For this reason, agrimony can be combined with other aromatic plants as a potpourri. However, raised plants are only rarely available (sometimes at some online retailers).
The seeds are also difficult to obtain. For some online retailers you can get the seeds, whereas the manufacturers are mostly producers of special seeds. In addition to the common agrimony occasionally also the fragrant agrimony is offered. If you are interested in the plant described here, you should pay attention to the botanical name Agrimonia eupatoria.
Cut agrimony herbs may be found in selected herbal shops. However, since the plant is not grown in the same frequency as other larger medicinal plants, the prices are sometimes a bit expensive. For 1 kg (35 oz) herb are about 13 to 20 EUR/$ to pay.