Written by Herb Society Member – Niki Senior
I’ve just undertaken my weekly ten miles round trip to the nearest village post office with a car boot full of parcels for customers of Norfolk Organics, however my usual trip was made all the more enjoyable due to a herbal discovery.
I am lucky enough to live in a little cottage in the middle of the Norfolk countryside in Breckland. The living landscape of The Brecks is a unique area of around 1,000 square kilometres. Breckland has a distinctive warm microclimate, acidic soils and its long history of land-use includes sheep-grazing and rabbit-warrening. This has led to the creation of some of the country’s most important heathland areas. These heaths support a vast array of wildlife, including the rare stone curlew, as well as many plants and insects found nowhere else in the UK. Aside from the heathland, in Norfolk we enjoy expansive wheat and barley fields and the prettiest country lanes hosting a vast array of wild hedgerow medicinal plants ripe for the picking – it certainly makes for a more exciting trip to the post office! Today, my face lit up when I drove for over a mile alongside a verge full of Filipendula Ulmaria – Meadowsweet.
I’m a little obsessed with this plant as the window for harvesting meadowsweet is just around two weeks here in the UK. I remember July 2017 being an absolute wash-out which saw many plants fall to the ground in the storms, meadowsweet included. Norfolk is well known as one of the driest and warmest parts of the UK so I was bitterly disappointed that year when I had to purchase meadowsweet instead of being able to harvest it myself.
In my car I carry an array of foraging equipment, so after I’d posted the parcels today, I parked up on the quiet lane and armed with a wooden trug and scissors I set off to harvest the ‘Queen of the hedge’. Because meadowsweet grows around boggy areas, damp woodlands and marshy places it’s important to be sure footed and know the area where you are picking it. Many a time I’ve slipped into a boggy area wearing just plimsolls.
I am inclined to agree when remarked upon that meadowsweet is the true smell of summer. Its scent is heady and somewhat intoxicating, but I just can’t get enough of it.
I’m a Druid and meadowsweet is among our sacred herbs. To Druids, Meadowsweet can be called by many names including Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort, Little Queen, Gravel Root, Trumpet Weed, Lady of the Meadow, Steeplebush, Bride of the Meadow, Mead Wort, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow Maid, Honeysweet, Meadow Wort and Bridgewort.
Aside from its summery fragrance, just why do I love it so much? Meadowsweet has a high salicylic acid content so it has an anti-inflammatory action, therefore it has uses for joint pain, such as arthritis and rheumatic conditions. It’s certainly comparable with Aspirin in its actions, so can replace aspirin in some conditions successfully and without the side effects on the stomach.
Meadowsweet is also good for the common cold, its mucous membrane action soothes and protects the oesophagus, throat and sinuses, it also reduces fever symptoms.
Its soothing action also extends to sore and inflamed eyes, and when I’ve spent a long day at the PC, I make a cooled infusion of Meadowsweet and use it as an eyebath. You can even pop some dried meadowsweet into an empty tea bag, wet and place on your eyes before bedtime to ease eye strain before sleep.
Meadowsweet has a diuretic action, and is active in creating and sustaining urinary health. It is indicated for use in cystitis and stimulates the flushing of toxins from the kidneys, so my macerated meadowsweet is an option for some of the clients I see for body massage and reflexology.
As you can see this wayside plant has vast healing potential. Today I placed my harvest in an old mushroom tray enabling the little black bugs to escape and set up home somewhere else. Tomorrow, I’ll place it in my dehydrator and set it off on a low temperature for 8 hours. I intend to make two healing remedies from this batch; a glycerite and a macerated oil. The former I will take for any sore throat that comes my way over winter months and the latter I will use with my clients.
In all honesty, this is the only anti-inflammatory that I go to straight away, who wants to be in pain when there’s a Mother Nature’s healer that can assist – and better still, she lives locally!
BSc (Hons) Cert.Ed IIHHTDip VTCTDip
International Author, Writer & Herbalist
All photos taken and provided by Niki Senior