Meadowsweet herbaceous is an shrub that comes from the Rosaceae family. Its scientific name is Filipendula ulmaria and it is characterized by its tall bouquets of white wild flowers that attract attention for their beauty. It is native to humid areas of Europe, but also grows in Asia and North America.
Although some cultivate it for ornamental purposes, the plant concentrates active compounds such as salicylates and tannins, which give it medicinal uses. In fact, as a study shared in Planta Medica exposes, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic and diuretic properties are attributed to it. Find out more about its uses.
What is Meadowsweet Herb?
Meadowsweet herb (Filipendula ulmaria) owes its name to its showy clusters of flowers that tower over other grasses. It also receives other names, such as “pride of the meadow”, “lady of the meadow” or “mead wort”. The latter is due to the fact that its pollen is used in the manufacture of a fermented alcoholic beverage based on honey and water.
In particular, it is a perennial species that usually grows in forests, swampy areas, meadows and wetlands in Central and Northern Europe, as well as in Asia and North America. According to history, it was the plant revered by the Druids, used to cast “love spells”.
It was also considered a “magic flower”, so it was used at weddings. Some believers claimed that their presence contributed to peace, love and harmony. In any case, its use was extended due to its medicinal contributions.
Specifically, and as compiled by a publication in Southern Cross University, it has substances with pharmacological action, such as spiraein, methyl salicylate, salicylic acid, salicin and salicylaldehyde. It is also a source of tannins and volatile oils that, together, give it the following qualities:
- Anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
- Antacid and antiulcerogenic.
- Mild urinary antiseptic.
Meadowsweet and aspirin
One of the components of meadowsweet herb, salicylic acid, was first isolated in 1838. After this, in 1890 it was used for the first time to make aspirin.
In fact, the name of this medicine comes from the term spiraea, used in ancient times to refer to the plant, since its flowers grow in a spiral-like way.
The main plant compounds in meadowsweet are tannins and salicylates. These explain much of its medicinal properties.
According to the journal Molecules, the nutritional profile of this plant includes the following:
- Tannins (ellagitannins known as rugosins).
- Flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin).
- Organic acids (such as citric, malic and salicylic acids).
- Amino acids.
- Minerals (such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium).
Health Benefits of Meadowsweet Herb
Due to its pharmacological composition, the queen of the meadows has been used in traditional medicine as a natural remedy against various ailments. However, to date the evidence on its efficacy is limited. That is why it should be used with caution, only as a complement.
1. Natural Anti-inflammatory Agent
One of the main applications of meadowsweet has to do with the control of inflammatory processes. As a study published in Phytotherapy Research explains, this is largely due to its polyphenol content. After being assimilated, they seem to decrease inflammatory blood markers.
For its part, through the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, an animal study revealed that the flowers of F. ulmaria have potential as a natural medicine for diseases with an inflammatory component. Its compounds could be useful in reducing pain responses.
In turn, this explains its use in conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. For now, more evidence is required to accurately assess the role of this plant in these diseases.
2. Skin Diseases
There are those who use this plant as a topical treatment to reduce skin inflammation or acne. However, to date there is no research to support these ideas. In any case, its defenders suggest that the content of salicylic acid and tannins is beneficial against these dermatological conditions.
On this, a study shared in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology indicates that salicylic acid promotes peeling and exfoliation. In this way, it can reduce acne, sun damage and blemishes.
Meanwhile, tannins have astringent effects that help cleanse pores clogged by excess oil. Because of this, some anti-acne products are formulated with extracts derived from meadowsweet. However, more studies are necessary.
3. Digestive system
Since ancient times, Filipendula ulmaria has been used as a supplement to combat digestive disorders. In particular, it seems to inhibit the growth of bacteria such as E. coli and E. faecalis, associated with problems such as food poisoning.
In addition to the above, it is said to have antacid qualities that reduce indigestion and the risk of ulcers. Linked to this, it should be noted that meadowsweet is considered a natural antiulcer.
The reason? Its tannins help form a protective layer in the stomach that inhibits the action of acids. Research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology confirms these gastroprotective properties.
4. Calms the Nerves
One of the traditional uses of meadowsweet is as a natural tranquilizer for nervous states. The consumption of its infusion can reduce the sensation of a knot in the stomach and the feeling of anguish.
5. Diuretic properties
There are few references about the diuretic properties of this plant. Despite this, in traditional medicine it is used as an ally to increase diuresis and reduce fluid retention.
Other possible uses of the queen of the meadows
Due to its methyl salicylate content, meadow grass is thought to have carminative qualities that help reduce gas and bloating. These properties can be enhanced with a mixture of the plant with anise or cumin grains.
Its astringent effects are also used as a natural remedy against diarrhea. Both its tannins and its essential minerals help restore the normal functions of the digestive system in this condition.
Similarly, it is believed to help the following:
- Relief of headaches and migraines.
- Circulatory problems.
- Fatigue reduction.
- Menstrual pain relief.
- Treatment of bruises and muscle pain (topical route).
- Relief of carpal tunnel syndrome (topical route).
- Decrease in fever.
- Urinary infections.
Side effects and contraindications of meadowsweet
Due to limited evidence on meadowsweet, its level of safety and effectiveness are unknown. For now, occasional moderate consumption of the tea and other supplements is believed to be safe for most healthy adults.
In any case, before consuming any presentation of the plant, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Possible drug interactions or complications from pre-existing disease should not be ruled out. Therefore, professional assessment is essential.
What is clear is that its simultaneous use with aspirin should be avoided, since it contains salicylic acid, which is the active compound of said drug. In excess it can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing, among other symptoms.
The plant is contraindicated in the following cases:
- Pregnancy and lactation.
- Patients with hemorrhagic diseases.
- People with a history of allergy to aspirin.
- Patients with pre-diagnosed chronic diseases.
- People who have surgery scheduled in the next few days.
What is there to remember about the meadowsweet herb?
Like other plants used in traditional medicine, meadowsweet lacks sufficient scientific research. Due to this, and although certain benefits are attributed to it, it should be used with caution.
For no reason can it replace the medications or treatments prescribed by the doctor. In fact, before using it as a supplement, it is better to consult with a professional.
For now, it is believed to have potential as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain reliever. However, more studies are required.