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Meadowsweet – Pocket Herbal

Meadowsweet – Pocket Herbal

Filipendula ulmariaRosaceae Family

To meadowsweet, aspirin is an annoying upstart. The trouble started in 1835 when a German chemist discovered that this graceful European herb contained salicylic, which eased pain. At the time, this information was treated simply as scientific trivia. It was much easier to make a cup of tea from a hearty garden plant than to distill an isolated chemical for the same effect. Demure meadowsweet was a potent analgesic that had gained the title “Lady-of-the-Meadow” from a loyal following. It wasn’t until 1899 that another German chemist named Karl Lowig who was working for a growing pharmaceutical company called Bayer patented a drug with meadowsweet’s key constituent that the problem began.

At first, the former fabric dye company focused on selling Lowig’s other famous discovery, diacetylmorphine which was given the brand name of “Heroin” and ignored the possibility of marketing aspirin. Aspirin slowly gained popularity in German hospitals during World War I. Once Germany was forced to release its patent on aspirin according to the Treaty of Versailles, meadowsweet became the neglected roadside weed. The romance with the convenience of gentrified chemical medicine spread through the increasingly gentrified world. Meadowsweet suffered neglect.

Meadowsweet has a few secrets that aspirin cannot compete with. The herbal painkiller is, unlike aspirin, good for the stomach. This herb contains mucilaginous qualities that soften salicylic acid’s effect on the digestive system. It also has natural anti-bacterial properties that battle both staph and strep infections. Even tricky infections like conjunctivitis poses little threat to the complex chemistry in meadowsweet’s cells. When you add these medicinal strengths together with meadowsweet’s delicious almond flavor, it is obvious that in the end, upstart pharmaceuticals like aspirin will need to learn to show respect when sitting by the gracious Lady-of-the-Meadow.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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