Meadowsweet was already known to healers and druids in antiquity. The ancient Germanic peoples used the herb to spice up their well-known mead (met / honey wine) with it. This probably explains the actual name origin of the herb, which is sometimes referred to as meadwort. Meadowsweet is used both in the kitchen and as a medicinal plant.
Profile of Meadowsweet:
Scientific name: Filipendula ulmaria
Plant family: rosaceae, rose family
Other names: meadwort, queen of the meadow, pride of the meadow, meadow-wort, meadow queen, lady of the meadow, dollof, meadsweet, bridewort
Sowing time / Planting time: April – September
Flowering period: May – August
Harvest time: May – October
Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, fruits
Location: sunny to partially shaded
Soil quality: moist, loamy and nutrient-rich soils
Use as a medicinal herb: acne, flu infections, headache, pain relief, heartburn, flatulence
Use as spice herb: fruit salads, compotes, fish and game dishes, wild herb salads
Plant characteristics and classification of Meadowsweet
Origin and distribution of meadowsweet
Meadowsweet is today found in most European countries, as well as in some countries of North and Central Asia. The plant is native to Central and Eastern Europe and used to be found in riparian forests. Even today, the herb is found in wet riparian areas or on swampy meadows. It has also been introduced and naturalised in North America.
Plant order of meadowsweet
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), also called meadsweet or meadwort, belongs to the botanical taxonomy of the rose plants (Rosaceae) and is related to herbs such as lady’s mantle, agrimony or burnet. The rose plants also include many woody plants such as willow, apple tree, rose bush or cherry tree. The genus Filipendula consists of 15 known species.
Look and characteristics of meadowsweet
Meadowsweet is a hardy, perennial plant with a very characteristic appearance. The plant usually reaches stature heights between 80 and 200 cm (30 and 80 inches), depending on the soil and general site conditions. The plant has a creeping rootstock with fine, slightly woody rhizomes.
The leaves are reminiscent of large rose petals. The mostly dark green and alternate leaves are pinnate or sawn and slightly hairy at the bottom. The leaf veins are clearly visible and do not run synchronously. The stems are edged and only slightly branched.
Meadowsweet usually flowers between late May and August. The white, cream-colored flowers are arranged in a umbel-like arrangement and usually consist of 5 to 6 petals. Striking is the strong and sweet scent of the flowers, which is more intense on warm evenings. The flowers are hermaphroditic and form small shell-like nut fruits after their fertilization, which usually contain two seeds. The fruits can be collected in October.
Meadowsweet usually flowers between late May and August. The white, cream-colored flowers are arranged in a umbel-like arrangement and usually consist of 5 to 6 petals. Striking is the strong and sweet scent of the flowers, which is more intense on warm evenings.
The flowers are hermaphroditic and form small shell-like nut fruits, which usually contain two seeds. The fruits can be picked in October.
Meadowsweet – cultivation and care
Meadowsweet is best raised by seed. Both outdoor and larger balconies are suitable. The cultivation on small areas as well as the indoor attitude are difficult. Sowing with seeds can be done from the end of April until September. The outside temperatures should be at least 15 ° C (59 °F).
Meadowsweet has a bit more requirements to its location. The herb loves sunny to half shady locations with nutrient rich, slightly loamy and rather humid soils. The soil must not be too acidic. Lime-containing soils are preferred. If it is grown in gardens with rather sandy soils, it is recommended to compact the respective site with compost. Clay powder or bentonite ensure that the water can not drain too fast.
Meadowsweet can also be cultivated on the balcony, but the plant then needs appropriate care and good growth conditions. However, full sun should be avoided. The herb should also be grown in larger pots (at least 30cm in diameter (12 inches)) with appropriate depth, as the root system is creeping and sometimes space demanding.
The plants should be set outdoors at a distance of 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches). It should be noted that meadowsweet can grow up to 2 m (80 inches) under optimal conditions. Always keep the soil slightly moist. Dehydration of the soil is to be avoided absolutely since the plant hardly recovers after drought stress. Meadowsweet is a typical riparian forest denizen and tolerates waterlogging.
Fertilizer need only be used sparingly for meadowsweet. If the plant grows at a suitable distance on good nutrient-rich soil, fertilization is usually not required. If the plant is grown for several years at the same location, it is advisable to incorporate long-term organic fertilizer into the soil. Horn shavings, pelleted dung and compost are particularly suitable here. If the plant grows in the pot, every 3 to 5 weeks a good herbal fertilizer should be given.
Meadowsweet is a hardy perennial that does not require any special wintering measures. In the spring, leaves shoot from the rhizome again. After fruit ripening, pruning the plant may be recommended.
Meadowsweet can also be propagated by division. Here it is perfectly sufficient to divide the rhizome and transplant it to another location.
When harvesting meadowsweet, both the green leaves as well as the inflorescences and fruits can be harvested. The herbs can be stored and dried. When drying the herbs, the inflorescences should be hung.
Meadowsweet and its use
Meadowsweet is mostly used as a medicinal plant because of its content of natural salicylic compounds. But it can also be used as a kitchen and seasoning herb in the kitchen.
Meadowsweet as a kitchen herb
Meadowsweet is often used for the flavoring of home-made beverages or for the preparation of jellies. It gives especially sweet food and drinks a fine and tart taste. Even fruit preserves can be spiced perfectly with it. For flavoring usually the sweet smelling flowers are used. The flavors of the flower can easily be liberated by water extracts. Fruit such as apples, pears, cherries or peaches can be cut into small pieces, mixed with a few tablespoons of water and strewn with the flowers. The preserves should always left to draw for a few hours before being eaten.
The leaves can be used for salads, but also as herbs for fish and game dishes. Also, the leaves can be cooked and prepared similar to spinach.
In Belgian and French cuisine, meadowsweet is mostly used for desserts. There the ingredients of the herb are internalized. These alleviate, especially for hearty foods, complaints such as bloating and heartburn.
Note: People with hypersensitivity to salicylic acid, asthma sufferers and pregnant women should refrain from eating meadowsweet.
Meadowsweet as a medicinal herb
Meadowsweet is a very old medicinal herb, of which the ancient Romans and Teutons had already reported. According to traditions of the Romans, it was a holy herb for the Teutons. Hildegard von Bingen also knew the herb well. She had cultivated it in the monastery gardens and used it against many complaints.
In the great herbal books of the Middle Ages meadowsweet was usually described only incompletely. For example, the pain relief by it hardly attracted attention. It was recommended especially for epilepsy, urinary disorders and coughing. The medicinal plant was usually boiled in wine and sweetened with honey.
In today’s folk medicine or naturopathy the meadowsweet has a very great importance. Particular attention is paid to the salicylic acid compounds in meadowsweet. Salicylic acid is nowadays usually chemically synthesized and offered as acetylsalicylic acid in many analgesics (e.g., Aspirin). Salicylic acid has an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect. But not only the salicylic acid makes it a sought-after herb, but also the containing tannins. The containing tanning agent ellagitannin provides e.g. for protecting mucous membranes. It also has an antioxidant effect.
The ingredients contained in meadowsweet are today used for the treatment of the following complaints:
- abdominal fullness
- blemished skin
- fever as a result of colds
- joint pain
- muscle cramps
- skin diseases
- supportive of colds or flu-like infections
The herb can be applied in different ways, e.g. as a tea, as a tincture, as a bath additive, as an ingredient of steam baths, as herbal wine or even pure. However, the most commonly used dosage form is tea, which is drunk especially in cases of inflammation, pain or cold symptoms.
Preparation of a meadowsweet tea
For the preparation of a meadowsweet tea, the fresh and young leaves, the flowers or the root can be used. Flowers are boiled in an infusion. The tea should have an anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect. Some sources even report that the tea can protect against influenza infections and relieve the symptoms of outbreaks. Meadowsweet tea should always be drunk unsweetened. More than three cups daily and throughout the day should not be drunk. Meadowsweet can also be mixed with other herbs such as thyme and lime blossom to prepare a cold tea.
Preparation of a steam bath
For the treatment of inflammatory skin or acne it is recommended to prepare steam baths or creams based on meadowsweet. When preparing a steam bath, about 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried meadowsweet must be spilled with some hot but not boiling water. Boiling water would dissolve the salicylic acid and inactivate it.
Preparation of an ointment
For the preparation of an ointment you can use linseed oil and fresh meadowsweet leaves or even better the fresh flowers, which are prepared in a water bath. The oil should then left to draw one day and mixed with lanolin the next day. The ointment can then be applied two to three times daily and evenly put on the respective skin areas.
Note: People who have hypersensitivity to salicylic acid, pregnant women and asthmatics should refrain from using meadowsweet products, or at least ask their doctor before use. The salicylic compounds contained in meadowsweet are considered to be mild painkillers and antipyretics.
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 Meadowsweet – What is there to pay attention to?
Meadowsweet is available in all forms: as a plant, as a seed, as a tea or in creams. In supermarkets or shopping malls one finds the herbs however rather rarely, if at all in the herbal trade or in pharmacies. Fresh plants are rarely found in larger plant centers. In various online shops, meadowsweet, however, should be purchased without any problems.
If you decide to buy one or more meadowsweet plants, make sure that the leaves are dark green and not rolled. Also, the shoot axis should be upright and robust. Make sure that the leaves do not contain any white spots. White spots on the top of the leaves are often an indication of powdery mildew. Since meadowsweet needs moist soil, care mistakes can easily happen. After purchase, the plant should be immediately placed in a sunny (no full sun!) location and, if possible, be watered.
If you want to buy meadowsweet seeds, you should pay close attention to this. The offer includes meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra) and dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris). The latter for example partly has other site conditions (drier soils) than meadowsweet. Also, little is reported or known about the healing properties of the other two herbs.
Those who have no space or conditions to grow meadowsweet, can also buy dried herbs. Here you can buy both the flowers and the leaves. The prices for this are usually quite high, because the plant is rarely offered in the trade. However, since meadowsweet is used rather sparingly, the investments are worthwhile.