Downy perennial growing to 60 cm (2 ft). Has wiry stems, compound leaves, small, yellow 5-petaled flowers, and fruit covered with hooks.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe and central Asia, avens is a common wayside plant. The root is dug up in spring, and the aerial parts are picked in summer.
Aerial parts, root.
Avens contains phenolic glycosides (including eugenol), tannins, a volatile oil, and possibly a sesquiterpene lactone (cnicin).
History & Folklore
Once known as herba benedicta (blessed herb), avens was credited with significant magical powers in the Middle Ages. A German text of 1493 states that if avens root is in the house, the devil is powerless. According to tradition, the root should be unearthed on March 25th.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Avens is an astringent herb, used principally for problems affecting the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. The herb tightens up soft gums, heals mouth ulcers, makes a good gargle for infections of the pharynx and larynx, and reduces irritation of the stomach and gut. It may be taken for peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and dysentery. Avens has been used in a lotion or ointment as a soothing remedy for hemorrhoids. The herb may also be used as a douche for treating excessive vaginal discharge. Avens reputedly has a mild quinine-type action in lowering fever.