Sometimes known as 'Queen of the Meadow', this lovely fragrant member of the Rose family is indeed a queen. It commonly grows in marshy grounds where the white flower plume appears like fairy mist among other, bolder herbs. The five petaled flowers are dainty, accentuated by the fact that they never open all at once. Their sweet, almond like fragrance is quite different from that of the leaves, which is more reminiscent of wintergreen. Once upon a time, both were much favoured as strewing herbs. However, Meadowsweet is much more than just a pretty flower. Its history as a medicinal plant is very interesting indeed: who would have thought that this humble herb lent its name to Aspirin' Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid (also found in Willow bark) and served as the 'donor' for the modern version aspirin. The 'spirin' part of the name derives from Meadowsweet's old name Spirea ulmaria. Meadowsweet was among the most sacred herbs of the Druids and in the olden days it often served as a brewing herb for sacred ales and meads.
Meadowsweet's salicylic acid compound makes this herb very interesting as a potential pain reliever, especially for arthritic and rheumatic conditions. It is also known to lower the stomach pH level, which helps ease heartburn, stomach ulcers and other inflammatory conditions of the digestive system such as gastritis and colitis. It can also be used to control diarrhoea and is mild enough to be given to children. It is strongly diaphoretic and diuretic and is very effective in breaking fevers. It appears to have a drying effect on the mucous membranes, which makes it a very suitable herb for feverish colds and flu. It has also been used for kidney and bladder inflammations. The leaves are styptic and can be used externally as a compress to staunch the bleeding of stab wounds. Old herbals recommend simmering the flowers in wine for an even greater effect. This concoction is said to stop inner bleeding and leucorrhoea and give relief for painful rheumatic joints, lumbago and sciatica. By virtue of its diuretic action it can reduce oedema and cleanses the blood.
Meadowsweet was one of the Druid's most revered herbs. In the Mabinogion it is told that, among other herbs, Meadowsweet served as a magical ingredient to create the flower maiden 'Bloddeuedd' who was to be the wife of Llew Llaw Gyffes. Thus it is often associated with love magic. Alas, the magical marriage did not last. Meadowsweet may be more suitable for finding a passionate but short-lived affair rather than marital bliss. It is also associated with the gift of courage and protection and may be used to attune to the fairy realm.