QUEEN OF THE PRAIRIE
FILIPENDULA ULMARIA = SPIRAEA ULMARIA
The meadowsweet is naturally present in the temperate regions of Europe and as far as Central Asia to Mongolia.
It has been introduced in North America where there is another closely related native species, Filipendula rubra (queen of the prairie).
Filipendula ulmaria is a large perennial herb , always associated with wet ground (river edge, ditch, ground with a water table close to the surface, wet meadows).
Its erect stem tinged with red can reach 1 m, its opposite leaves are divided into unequal leaflets, green above and whitish below.
Its flowers are small, numerous, white, in terminal clusters and give off a pleasant and very characteristic smell (methyl salicylate).
The fruit containing the seeds is spirally wound (hence its old name "spiraea" or spirea).
It is a traditional medicinal plant in Europe but also a food condiment (beer, wine) and a useful plant (mellifer, natural dye).
The medicinal part is the flowered top (leaves and flowers).
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
FLOWERED TOP OF MEADOWSWEET , LEAVES AND FLOWERS
The main components of the Meadowsweet are:
- a compound (monotropitoside) which releases METHYL SALICYLATE, a similar compound is found in greater quantity in the Gaultheria species (wintergreen).
Methyl salicylate is volatile , toxic in high doses, but analgesic (against pain) and antipyretic (against fever) at low dose,
- FLAVONOIDS, some of which are anti-inflammatory, anti-free radicals and which can inhibit the development of cancer cells,
- TANNINS (ellagitannins), astringent, anti-inflammatory .
It is known that these tannins can be transformed by the bacterial flora of the large intestine into assimilable substances, UROLITHINS, which have apparently interesting properties (cell protection) that delay the aging of tissues (anti-senescence action).
- ESSENTIAL OIL in a small quantity dominated by salicylate derivatives (salicylic aldehyde predominates) associated with monoterpenes (linalool, geraniol, alpha-terpineol),
- assimilable substances: carbohydrates (mainly glucose), proteins and mineral salts.
The total extract of meadowsweet is ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, slightly ANTALGIC and ANTIPYRETIC and moderately DIURETIC.
MEADOWSWEET A MEDICINAL PLANT
The main indications of the meadowsweet or its extracts are:
- pain and fever : seasonal viral infections, flu-like infectious episode, "febrile body aches",
- recurrent rheumatic pain related to osteoarthritis, trauma or "sprain", muscle pain,
- minor URINARY DISORDERS (without fever) related to an oliguria (decrease in the volume of urine) or the presence of urinary lithiasis sometimes after the evacuation of stones: cystitis, burning at the time of urination,
- Overweight with moderate diabetes type 2: meadowsweet extracts can help to reduce weight (temporarily) by increasing the volume of urine, but it must imperatively be associated with a low-calorie diet to bring down the weight permanently.
In addition, these extracts slightly reduce the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestine (useful in type 2 diabetes).
EXAMPLES OF DOSAGE:
- INFUSION or decoction (which contains more tannins): 50g of dry flowering tops (or 150g of fresh plant) in 1 liter of hot water or in boiling water (for the decoction), 10 to 15 minutes (infusion or decoction) , to drink in the day.
- POWDER of plant in capsules: 2 to 4 g to distribute during the day with a glass of water
- alcoholic tincture : 50 drops to 100 drops twice a day,
- EXTRACTS : comply with laboratory indications as there is no precise standardization.
The duration of treatment is variable depending on the indication: one week in case of febrile episode, several weeks in case of inflammatory joint or muscle pain or to accompany dieting.
CONTRAINDICATIONS and PRECAUTIONS
- The meadowsweet contains salicylic acid derivatives that can DECREASE the CLOTTING TIME (coagulation time) of the blood (be careful with anticoagulant therapy).
- Some people with weakened or irritated gastric mucosa may have heartburn if they are treated with meadowsweet during several weeks.
- It is better (in my opinion) to avoid this plant in case of peptic ulcer (even if some herbal therapists prescribe it for this disease).
MEADOWSWEET IN FOOD, BEVERAGES AND AS A USEFUL PLANT
You can bring an original aroma to sweet dishes or desserts with dried leaves of meadowsweet but also to a soup (with young leaves).
The infusion of dried leaves is pleasant, slightly sweet (presence of a little glucose).
For a long time the "barley beer" (beer without malt or malt extracts) was flavored with various plants including the queen of the meadows.
It can also be macerated in wine (white preferably) to enhance the taste and aroma.
By drying the meadowsweet gradually releases methyl salicylate, one can make aromatic bouquets (long ago it was spread on the ground to perfume rooms).
It is a wild honey plant that bees particularly appreciate.
The root contains enough tannin to provide a decoction that dyes in black after etching with iron sulphate.
MEADOWSWEET AND ASPIRIN
Plants containing salicylates (meadowsweet and especially white willow) have long been known to relieve fever and inflammatory pain.
During the 19th century many European chemists tried to synthesize molecules with "salicylate structure" more active and better tolerated than salicylates.
Finally, chemists of the Bayer laboratory succeeded in producing a stable and effective molecule: acetylsalicylic acid which they named "ASPIRIN" to refer to MEADOWSWEET (spiraea) whereas the word salicylic originates from white willow (salix).
Aspirin is the first non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug synthesized (= without a cortisone-like structure).
CULTURE AND CONSERVATION OF MEADOWSWEET
Filipendula ulmaria or meadowsweet can be grown easily in all "wet" and sunny (but not too stagnant) soils.
Simply put into the ground a fragment of rhizome.
MEADOWSWEET is harvested at the beginning of flowering (before the blossoming of all the flowers), it keeps and develops its aroma during the first months of drying(by releasing methyl salicylate molecules).
MEADOWSWEET A MEDICINAL HERB
Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet is a traditional medicinal plant in Europe and North America.
It is anti-inflammatory and lowers the fever of seasonal viral infections or influenza.
It contains substances similar to synthetic aspirin which have similar pharmacological properties.
It is also a diuretic plant that can accompany dieting or calm chronic minor urinary disorders .
You can flavor dishes (desserts, soups) or drinks (beer, wine) with its leaves and dry flowers.
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel