I’m sitting on my favourite Swamp seat: a pile of logs made from two chainsawed wooden telegraph poles. A buzzard circles, lazily, high above on a rising thermal. A kestrel hovers close by, its eyes fixed on the wavering grasses below. It’s a hot evening with a very light breeze; in fact, it is a very pleasant evening indeed. I’m surrounded by cattle stretched out, unseen, in tall grass, enjoying the warmth of an early summer evening; even when they stand, I can’t see them. I hear them, though.
A sea of meadowsweet stretches in all directions throughout the Swamp. Meadowsweet is such pretty and useful plant to have around.
The medicinal uses of meadowsweet has been known since the middle ages, and probably a long time before that. It is one of the three herbs held to be most sacred by the Celtic druids, and was traditionally used to flavour mead – hence its folk name “mead wort”.
Meadowsweet was used to dry out the body, and to stop bleeding, vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive menstruation. It is rich in salicylic acid and an effective moderate pain reliever, especially good for headaches.
Salicylic acid makes meadowsweet effective against inflammation. It is now thought that most diseases can be traced back to chronic low-level inflammation, making this herb an extremely useful tool in a natural health kit. Salicylic acid is more famously known to come from Willow. Other compounds within Meadowsweet make it much easier on the lining of the stomach.
Meadowsweet is a digestive aid that soothes and protects the mucous membranes of the digestive tract and stomach lining whilst reducing acidity. Meadowsweet promotes the healing of chronic ulcers and prevent lesions from developing in the stomach. It is used in the treatment of heartburn, hyperacidity, gastritis and peptic ulceration. Its gentle astringency is useful in treating diarrhoea, especially in children.
All parts of the plant contain high levels of phenolic compounds, including a newly discovered flavonoid glycoside named ulmarioside, which is unique to meadowsweet. Ethyl acetate extracts inhibit both T-cell proliferation and complement cascade activation (a major part of innate immunity), therefore inhibiting the immune response. They also inhibited the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals). All of these processes play a part in the inflammatory response, and explain the effectiveness of meadowsweet preparations in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.
Meadowsweet is a very welcome addition to the marsh cattle’s on-site medical kit.