Meadowsweet, alternately named meadowwort, bridewort, or Queen or Pride of the Meadow is an herb that grows wild in Europe and Asia, and that quickly became a popular perennial in North America. When left alone, you’ll typically find this plant in open meadows. Its stalks of green leaves, about 3-6 feet tall (1-2 m approximately), give birth to fragrant and tiny white flowers in late spring to early fall.
Meadowsweet is part of the rosacaceae family, which includes other well-known plants like roses and blackberries. Its scientific name is Flipendula ulmaria. It’s long been used as an herbal remedy for conditions like diarrhea, or as a painkiller. There are excellent reasons why meadowsweet works as a painkiller, since it contains salicylic acid, the principal ingredient in aspirin.
In fact, aspirin was initially created from meadowsweet. Other forms of salicylic acid tended to create digestive upset, but meadowsweet’s form of the acid proved slightly less irritating to the stomach. This inspired Felix Hoffman to duplicate the chemical form of salicylic acid and add some chemical alterations to invent aspirin in the late 19th century.
As a remedy for diarrhea, this herbal remedy is equally effective. If you’ve ever looked at a bottle of Pepto-Bismol® you’ll note the first ingredient is salicylic acid. The acid can help prolonged diarrhea and may also help to reduce stomach acid. Yet given the chemical constituents of meadowsweet and aspirin, it’s very important to treat the herb as if it were aspirin. You should not give the herb to children under twelve, especially if they exhibit signs of getting stomach flu or chicken pox. This could cause the complicated and difficult Reye’s syndrome, which can be fatal.
People have used this herb to flavor foods and drink. It could be added to beer, wine, jams, jellies, or preserved fruit to give extra flavor. All parts of the plant are edible. The herb is also a popular ingredient in potpourri. Leaves of the plant, petals and rushes might be strewn on the floor, as far back as the Middle Ages to sweeten the smell of a house. Additionally, there’s magical lore associated with the use of meadowsweet in this manner. It’s supposed to create an environment of peace and love in a home.
There’s evidence meadowsweet may have covered the graves of loved ones, and may have been added to peoples’ remains when they were cremated. The uses of this pretty herb are extensive. It continues to be prized for all its medicinal qualities and for its sweet smell and taste.