Perennial growing to 2 ft (60 cm) with green leaves divided into 3 leaflets with 3 lobes, white flowers on large umbels, and winged seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to central and southern Europe and Asia, most often found in the wild. The root is unearthed in autumn or spring.
Masterwort contains a camphoraceous volatile oil (including limonene, phellandrene, alpha-pinene, and a sesquiterpene), peucadanin, oxipeucadanin, and ostrutol.
History & Folklore
From the late Middle Ages onward, masterwort was held in high regard by herbalists. Pierandrea Matteoli’s Materia Medica of 1548 explains: “Masterwort powerfully resolves all flatulence in the body, stimulates urine and menstruation, is an admirable remedy for paralysis and cold conditions of the brain, and helps against pestilence and the bites of rabid dogs.” A century later, Nicholas Culpeper was no less fulsome in recommending masterwort for rheumatic conditions, shortness of breath, kidney and bladder stones, water retention, “falling sickness,” and wounds.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Masterwort is little used today, but it may well be an herb that bears further investigation. The root is aromatic, warms central areas of the body, and is a bitter tonic. It has a strong action within the stomach and gut, settling indigestion and relieving gas and cramping. Masterwort is also beneficial for chest conditions, and is used for colds, asthma, and bronchitis. It can also be helpful for menstrual problems.
If applied to the skin, masterwort may cause an allergic reaction to sunlight.