Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Synonyms and Common names: Common Agrimony, church steeples, cocklebur, sticklewort, philanthropos
The herb Agrimony isn’t usually found in the modern healers book of recipes, but in the Middle Ages, and further back, Agrimony was a much used and greatly valued herb in the armoury of the healer and for the lady of the house.
Agrimony was well known in Anglo Saxon Britain as being one of the most famous vulnerary herbs. The word ‘vulnerary’ means ‘wound healing’. It was also well documented by healers in Greece and Rome.
Description and Habitat:
The plant is found abundantly throughout England, on hedge-banks and the sides of fields, in dry thickets and on most waste places. In Scotland it is much more local and does not penetrate very far north.
It’s a hardy perennial herb, meaning that once established it will flower year after year, possibly growing and flowering for many years without failing.
Its natural habitat is dry wastelands where full sun is in plenty. But it can take to cultivation easily. Begin with seeds sown in pots in the greenhouse or placed on a sunny windowsill when all chance of frost has gone. Water the seeds lightly until the plants are established. Don’t let them get too wet, and when planted out into the garden water sparingly, but only when the soil becomes dry. Agrimony is a herb that will happily look after itself once it’s established.
Agrimony plants usually grow very straight with erect hairy stalks that can measure up to two foot tall terminating in spikes of yellow flowers. Both the flowers and the notched leaves give off a faint characteristic lemony scent when crushed.
After the flowers fade they give place to tiny clinging "burrs" which will quickly adhere to your clothing if you brush past it, and it is its ability to cling on to the fur of animals that provides such a widespread cultivation
Parts used: dried aerial parts.
Collection and preparation:
The herb will be ready for harvesting when its flowers at their height, and it’s the arial parts of the herb are harvested, meaning its leaves, flowers and stalk. It is best to avoid any flower spikes that have begun to develop into its characteristic spiny burrs, as these flowers will have gone too far and are unusable.
Its best dried in a cool, dark, dry place; an airing cupboard is ideal.
Tannins (astringents), glucosidal bitters (increases appetite), nicotinic acid (reduces cholesterol levels), salicylic acid (reduces pain), iron (prevents anaemia), vitamins B and K, and essential oil.
Anti-inflammatory, its mildly astringent, a diuretic, a tonic and a vulnerary.
The herb is indicated for use against:
Diarrhoea in children.
Mucous colitis, grumbling appendicitis, urinary incontinence, cystitis, gastric acidity, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome and gall bladder problems.
Agrimony is also used to treat a sore threat when used as a gargle.
And to help with fluid retention, cuts and open wounds, corns and warts, it is also a sedative and antihistamine (reduces or prevents allergy symptoms)
Agrimony can be applied directly to the skin as an astringent for mild skin irritation, redness, swelling or inflammation.
Agrimony is a muscle a nerve relaxant and is indicated for relief of a tension headache, and for muscle cramps during menstruation (either drink as an infusion or use it on the skin to relieve muscular tension).
Agrimonia is a digestive tonic; its tannins tone the mucous membranes, improving their secretion and absorption. It’s of particular benefit in the treatment of irritation and infection of the digestive tract in children. It is also of use in peptic ulceration and for controlling colitis. The bitter principles regulate the liver and gallbladder function.
Agrimonia is also used to counter high uric acid levels in rheumatism and gout. Internally, it’s used in urinary infection (blood in the urine is often a sign of this) It can be used externally for wounds and cuts, and this action is attributed to the high silica content of the herb.
It can be used as a mouthwash or gargle for inflamed gums and sore throats. As a douche, it’s used in the treatment of a white or yellowish discharge the vagina, often an indication of infection.
Agrimonia can also be beneficial as an eyewash for conjunctivitis.
A poultice can be used in the external treatment of varicose veins
The herb may be used in urinary incontinence and cystitis. As a gargle it's beneficial in the relief of sore throats and laryngitis. As an ointment it will aid the healing of wounds and bruises, and is the herb of choice for appendicitis.
Contraindications: Unsafe during pregnancy as it can affect the menstrual cycle. Agrimony may lower blood sugar levels and does not interact well with diabetes medications; it is recommended that the herb is not used by diabetics. It is not recommended for use during the two weeks before and the two weeks after surgery.
Preparation and dosage:
Agrimony is best used as either an Infusion or a Tincture.
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes.
If use is internally then the infusion may be drunk or gargled three times a day.
If used externally then use as a poultice or wet a clean cloth with the Infusion and use as required.
Tincture: take 1 to 3 ml of the tincture three times a day
Agrimony Herb Infusion:
Infuse 1 teaspoon dried, or 3 teaspoons of fresh Agrimony, using stalk, leaves, and/or flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and flavour with honey to taste.
Additional comments and Folklore:
Agrimony has a very old reputation as a popular, domestic medicinal herb, being what was known as a ‘simple’ was well known to all country-folk. This herb is not commonly used today, but has its place in traditional herbal medicine.
Its root was used to provide a yellow dye.
And Agrimony was used as a strewing herb along with Meadowsweet and Lavender and other sweet smelling herbs. Strewing herbs were used on the floor to provide a sweet smelling aroma as it was crushed by walking on it.
The name Agrimony is from Argemone, a word used by the Greeks to plants which were healing to the eyes.
Agrimony was one of the most famous vulnerary herbs. The Anglo-Saxons, who called it Garclive, and taught that it would heal wounds, snake bites, warts, etc.
In the time of Chaucer, we find its name appearing in the form of Egrimoyne, it was used with Mugwort and vinegar for 'a bad back' and 'alle woundes'
There is a long history of using Agrimony as a spring tonic to purify the blood.