The Green Man.....In The Field (Part 6)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is one of my top favourite herbs, right up there with Verbena.
The pictures shown here were taken earlier in July. However, this beautiful herb is long flowering and even now, in August, it is still possible to go out and find them in full bloom. Personally, I could find them blind-folded if put in the right place, as by stepping on their leaves they give off a distinct, chalky, aspirin-like smell. This is an indicator to us of the importance of using multiple senses for the purpose of identification.
Meadowsweet prefers damp places. Its evolution in this environment has had an influence on its effectiveness on such hot conditions as inflammation, pain and acid. However, archaic belief systems assign Meadowsweet to the wind element. It is significant that the term wind is used instead of air. The ancients saw the world as being made up of the four elements. These elements played an active role in the physical world. On a human level, it was believed that we were also subject to the influence of the elements and disease was an indication of one or more of these being out of balance.
When we combine the influences of Meadowsweet's damp environment with the archaic belief in its associations with the element of wind, we can start to understand the complexity of its function in treating disease.
Meadowsweet's water influence makes it suitable for conditions where there is burning or heat, such as in inflammation or acid. This is especially significant where these are generated from disturbances in the liver (our great source of heat) and digestive system, leading to wind.
Like many herbs that grow in damp places, Meadowsweet is quite dry and astringent. If we think of the action of the wind, it can be both cooling and drying (although remember that the long term action of astringent herbs is to passively moisten through the action of retaining moisture where there is moisture loss).
When I do my herb walks, Meadowsweet is one of the herbs I like to get people to taste. The leaf has a complexity of flavour. To me there is almost a minty quality that is combined with that aspirin like chalky astringency. This is no coincidence as Meadowsweet is one of the plants initially used in the development of aspirin. In fact its former botanical name of Spireae ulmaria helped coin the term aspirin. The other plant involved is actually the White Willow. The botanical name for the White Willow tree is Salix alba. The name Salix formed the prefix of one of the active ingredients in these plants, which is salicylic acid.It is salicylic acid which forms the basis of aspirin.
Meadowsweet is very effective in heartburn and indigestion, although in chronic
cases it is important to investigate the underlying cause. However, for acute conditions I use a leaf or a teaspoon of dried leaf/stem, infused in a cup of boiling water and taken several times a day. It is amazing how effective relief is on our doorstep....a free offering from the green ones....to sooth and heal us.