Perennial growing to 18 in (45 cm). Has a square stem, whorls of narrow elliptical leaves, and small white flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Sweet woodruff is native to Europe, and is also found in Asia and North Africa. It grows in woodlands and shaded places. The herb is gathered when in flower in late spring.
Sweet woodruff contains iridoids, coumarins (0.6%), tannins, anthraquinones, and flavonoids. The flavonoids act on the circulation and are diuretic.
History & Folklore
When it dries, sweet woodruff takes on the scent of newly cut grass, and it has often been placed between clothes to impart its aroma. In his Irish Herbal of 1735, K’Eogh records that “It is good in healing wounds if bruised and then applied, and also in curing boils and inflammations.” In Germany Maiwein, made of sweet woodruff steeped in white wine, is drunk to celebrate May Day.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Sweet woodruff is considered tonic, with significant diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects. Its coumarin and flavonoid constituents make it helpful for varicose veins and phlebitis. It has been used as an antispasmodic, and it is given to children and adults for insomnia.
In excessive doses, sweet woodruff can cause internal bleeding. Do not use if taking conventional medication for circulatory problems, or during pregnancy.