Ground elder – characteristics, cultivation and use

Flower of ground elder
Flower of ground elder

For most garden owners, the ground elder is considered a nuisance weed that is so stubborn that you will never get rid of it. Ground elder used to be very popular in folk medicine for treating gout and rheumatism. However, you can eat the plant as a wild vegetable in salads or as an alternative to spinach. In addition, the herb has healing powers and can promote the urinary organs and metabolism.

Profile of ground elder:

Scientific name: Aegopodium podagraria

Plant family: umbellifer (Apiaceae)

Other names: herb gerard, bishop’s weed, goutweed, gout wort, snow-in-the-mountain, English masterwort, wild masterwort

Sowing time / Planting time: Spring – Autumn

Flowering period: May – September

Harvest time: March – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, seeds, shoots

Location: shady to partially shaded

Soil quality: humus rich, moist soil

Use as a medicinal herb: rheumatism, gout, bladder infections, scurvy,

Use as aromatic herb: as vegetables like spinach

Plant characteristics and classification of ground elder

Origin and occurrence of ground elder

Plant order of ground elder

Botanically, ground elder is one of the umbelliferae and is thus related to herbs such as dill or caraway. The genus ground elder is quite small with 7 species. In nature, the plant is quite common. It prefers humid deciduous and mixed forests, parks, gardens and roadsides.

Characteristics of ground elder


The perennial shrub is between 30 and 90 cm (12 and 36 in) high.


Ground elder is quite easy to recognize by its distinctive leaves and the characteristic look. The herb has simple, large and jagged leaves. The stems are edged and hollow inside.


The inflorescence of ground elder remind of wild carrot, which belongs to the same plant family. The white to slightly reddish flowers are communicated in so-called umbels. The yaw usually blooms between May and September, forming small and smooth fruits that look like caraway.


The seeds form from the flowers until autumn. The egg-shaped and smooth fruits are about 3-4 mm (0.12-0.16 in) long.

Leaves of ground elder
Leaves of ground elder

Ground elder – cultivation and care


Regarding the location, ground elder is undemanding. However, the plant grows best in nitrogen-rich, humus rich soils in moist, shady spots. Accordingly, one finds the plant therefore in the wild in forests.


The cultivation of ground elder wants to be well considered. It is one of the plants – similar to wild garlic, which multiply quickly and uncontrollably. If one nevertheless decides to do so, the easiest way is to plant over cuttings. If you want to avoid that the garden is home only to ground elder, it is advisable to grow it in a large bucket or by planting it in a bed with boundaries.


Ground elder can be raised by seeds. Sowing can be done between spring and autumn. The sowing should be done in rather nutrient-poor soils. Since it needs light to germ, the seeds should only be pressed slightly and never covered with earth. As soon as the seedlings appear it is important to keep the soil moist but not too wet.


Ground elder is a resistant herb and does not require much care. Conversely, that also means that one does not get rid of it so easily. One has little success in fighting ground elder by simply removing the green leaf. Hacking the roots also does not promise a long-term chance of success. Only the meticulous removal of all root parts from the earth puts an end to the plant.

Tip: How to get rid of ground elder the natural way

Experienced gardeners swear by potatoes as efficient weed suppressants: the plants shade the soil with their dense foliage and at the same time dispute the plants water and nutrients.

Ground elder and its use

Ground elder in the kitchen

The plant is very popular among lovers of wild herbs and wild vegetables. Ground elder has a spicy note, which unfolds its interesting taste, especially in summer salads. It contains many vitamins, minerals and trace elements. So it is far superior to the mineral-rich kale, as it has up to thirteen times more minerals. Similarly, the vitamin C content is four times higher than in lemons!

The entire aboveground herb is suitable for the preparation of various foods. The mild and very tasty leaves are the most commonly used. One can eat them in lettuce, in soups, as a spinach substitute and as fillings or on pizza, in wild herb spreads, in smoothie and together with garlic mustard and ground ivy as pesto. For these preparations, you should use only young, soft leaves, as older ones are sometimes fibrous, especially after flowering. Through regular harvesting, young leaves keep on growing.

Ground elder is often eaten as wild vegetables in combination with stinging nettles and dandelions. The plants can be prepared in the case as a salad or, which usually happens more often than soup or as cream soup.

For a healing effect in addition to the consumption of fresh herbs one can also drink a tea. In addition to the above symptoms the tea helps with cystitis and colds, as well as it has the ability to flush out harmful substances from the body. External treatment for gout, lumbago, sciatic pain and rheumatism is accompanied by the ingestion of the tea.

Preparation of a ground elder tea

  1. put 2 tablespoons in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling hot water

  3. let steep for 5-10 minutes

Ground elder as a medicinal herb

Already in the Middle Ages ground elder was used for cardiovascular complaints, gout, rheumatism and sciatica.

Ground elder can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • cystitis
  • diarrhea
  • gout
  • indigestion
  • hemorrhoids
  • overweight
  • rheumatism
  • sciatica
  • scurvy
  • wounds

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-rheumatic
  • digestive stimulating
  • diuretic
  • draining
  • laxative
  • reassuring
  • uric acid expectorant

Basically, due to its high vitamin C and iron content it is very healthy and is therefore often used in spring as an ingredient for smoothies or vegetables. In connection with stinging nettle it should help relieve symptoms of spring fatigue.

Envelopes of a ground elder

The fresh crushed herb is applied as an envelope on the affected body site against gout and rheumatism. Practically, the crushed cabbage can be used on hikes or walks against insect bites.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy ground elder – What is there to pay attention to?

Due to the mostly negative reputation, plants are only rarely found in the trade. But you can find them in online shops at very reasonable prices.


    • Suitable herbs for irritable bowel syndrom are: Barberry, Dill, Yellow gentian, Oats, St. John’s wort, Chamomile, Flax, and Ribwort.

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