Meadowsweet is a common flower which grows to about 4 feet high and has very distinctive fluffy cream flowers. The latin name is Filipendula ulmaria or may be in older books as Spiraea ulmaria. It is usually found in wet or boggy ground in places like edges of fields, grass verges, canal or riverbanks or railway embankments.
The scent of flowers is a bit like honey with a hint of marzipan. The leaves have tiny leaves between the larger ones and when scrunched up give off a smell a bit like old fashioned antiseptic.
In traditional herbalism meadowsweet has a wide range of uses for digestive troubles, headaches and pain and can be used as a tea – just add a teaspoon of dried or fresh flowers to a cup of hot water and leave to brew for about 5 minutes. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is what aspirin was originally synthesised from.
However if you are pregnant, asthmatic, taking warfarin or have a known allergy to aspiring then it is best avoided.
As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.
You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.
In this short video Monica Wilde of Napiers the Herbalists talks about how to identify meadowsweet and its historic and medicinal uses.
In this next video Monica shows you how to make Meadowsweet Cordial. Use about 250g of sugar and 1 litre of water for 30-40 heads of open flowers.