Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Synonyms and Common names: Common Agrimony, church steeples, cocklebur, sticklewort, philanthropos.
The herb Agrimony isn’t usually found in the modern healer’s book of recipes, but in the Middle Ages, and further back, Agrimony was a much used and greatly valued herb in the armory 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 of the vulnerary herbs. The word ‘vulnerary’ means ‘wound healing’. It was also well documented by healers in Greece and Rome.
Description and Habitat:
The herb is found abundantly throughout England, on hedge-banks and the sides of fields, in dry thickets and in most waste places. In Scotland, it is not so common and does not penetrate very far to the 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, and it will happily flourish here in Britain.
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 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 aerial parts of the herb that 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 anemia), vitamins B and K, and essential oil.
Anti-inflammatory, it's a mild 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 can also be used to treat a sore throat when used as a gargle.
It helps 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, and 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). This also makes it a useful herb to consider for someone suffering from arthritis, as bones, muscles, joints, and tendons can all be affected by this debilitating disease.
Agrimony 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 ulcers and for controlling colitis. The bitter principles regulate the liver and gallbladder function.
Agrimony 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 white or yellowish discharge from the vagina, often an indication of infection.
Agrimony can be beneficial as an eyewash in conjunctivitis.
A poultice can be used for 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 it is the herb of choice for appendicitis.
Contraindications: As with all herbs it is deemed to be unsafe during pregnancy, but this herb affects the menstrual cycle, so has a double warning here. 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, when taken internally, 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.
The infusion may be drunk or gargled three times a day.
If used topically (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 flavor with honey to taste.
Agrimony has a very old reputation as a popular, domestic medicinal herb, being what was known as a ‘simple,’ the herb 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.
Agrimony was used as a strewing herb along with Meadowsweet, 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 that were healing to the eyes.
Agrimony was one of the most famous vulnerary herbs. The Anglo-Saxons, who called it Garclive, 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 for 'alle woundes'
There is a long history of using Agrimony as a spring tonic to purify the blood.
It is clear to see that Agrimony was once a useful herb to have in the garden and dried herb jars.