Information on Meadowsweet

Botanical name: Filipendula ulmaria. Meadowsweet is found in northern and southern Europe, North America, and northern Asia. The flowers and flowering top are primarily used in herbal preparations, although there are some historical references to using the root. Meadowsweet is used to treat the common cold, influenza, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Meadowsweet was used historically by herbalists for a wide variety of conditions, including treating rheumatic complaints of the joints and muscles. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th-century English pharmacist, mentioned its use to help break fevers and promote sweating during a cold or flu. Traditional herbal references also indicate its use as a diuretic for people with poor urinary flow. It was also thought to have antacid properties and was used by herbalists to treat stomach complaints, including heartburn.

Active constituents: While the flowers are high in flavonoids, the primary constituents in meadowsweet are the salicylates, including salicin, salicylaldehyde, and methyl salicylate. In the digestive tract, these compounds are oxidized into salicylic acid, a substance that is closely related to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). While not as potent as willow, which has a higher salicin content, the salicylates in meadowsweet may give it a mild anti-inflammatory effect and ability to reduce fevers during a cold or flu. However, this role is only based on historical use and knowledge of the chemistry of meadowsweet’s constituents, and to date, no human trials have examined the therapeutic potential of meadowsweet.

The German Commission E monograph recommends 2.5–3.5 grams of the flower or 4–5 grams of the herb—often in a tea or infusion—per day. Unfortunately, to achieve an aspirin-like effect, one would realistically need to consume about 50–60 grams of meadowsweet daily. This means that willow bark extracts standardized to salicin are a far more practical as a potential herbal substitute for aspirin for minor aches and pains or mild fevers. Tinctures, 2–4 ml three times per day, may alternatively be used.

People with sensitivity to aspirin should avoid the use of meadowsweet. It should not be used to lower fevers in children as it may possibly lead to Reye’s syndrome. Certain medications may interact with meadowsweet. Refer to the drug interactions safety check for a list of those medications.

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