Before drugs like cough syrups and antibiotics existed, people turned to healing herbs and spices to help treat respiratory infections, pain, digestive issues and other ailments. One example of a plant that is used to make herbal medicines for these purposes is meadowsweet, which has been used for centuries due to its high supply of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
According to Plants for a Future, the leaves and flowering stems of this plant also have “antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, and stomachic and tonic effects.”
What Is Meadowsweet Herb?
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is a plant in the rose/Rosaceae family that is used to make herbal remedies. The rose family contains over 4,000 species of plants, some of which are utilized for therapeutic purposes due to their supply of healing oils and compounds.
Meadowsweet earned its name because it grows in damp areas like meadows and because its white flowers and green stems have a strong, sweet smell. It’s thought to be native to Europe and Western Asia and today grows mostly in England, Ireland and parts of Eastern North America.
What is meadowsweet used for? Considered to be a “sacred herb” by Celtic cultures,” it’s most often been taken to support a healthy immune system and for treatment of symptoms caused by colds, bronchitis, upset stomach, heartburn and certain infections.”
Today meadowsweet is typically taken as an extract or herbal tea. This herb also goes by several other names, including:
- Meadow Queen
- Mead Wort
- Queen of the Meadow
What are the health benefits of meadowsweet? Meadowsweet herb has been shown in some studies to possess the ability to fight oxidative stress, pain and inflammation due to its high concentration of compounds like tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, essential oils and salicylates (the same types of compounds found in aspirin that have pain-relieving effects).
Specific compounds found within meadowsweet herb that give it medicinal properties include:
- Tannins, such as ellagitannins, rutoside, spiraeoside, isoquercitrin and rugosins
- Flavonoids, such as kaempferol and quercetin
- Salicin, a pain-reducing compound that was first taken from the meadowsweet plant in the late 1800s and altered to become acetylsalicylic acid, which was later renamed aspirin
These can help to decrease swelling, accumulation of phlegm and other markers of inflammation that contribute to discomfort.
Another use of its healing compounds is that it acts as a diuretic, meaning it helps reduce fluid accumulation in the body that makes swelling worse.
Here’s more about what research tells us regarding potential meadowsweet benefits:
1. Helps Ease Joint Pain
Because it has anti-inflammatory effects, meadowsweet herb products are recommended for people with arthritis, degenerative joint disorders and gout. In fact, within this herb there’s a small amount of salicylic acid, which is the same active component found in aspirin that is taken to lower inflammation.
Supposedly native Americans living in North America even fought painful conditions by making a concoction of meadowsweet mixed with yarrow.
Some research suggests that antioxidants present within Filipendula ulmaria, including flavonoids, may help support healthy immune responses and fight cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals. Meadowsweet also seems capable of decreasing inflammatory blood markers that may contribute to pain — plus it has natural cooling effects and promotes circulation.
Other mechanisms of action for decreasing swelling and pain include preventing buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can crystallize around sensitive joints, and inhibiting the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which causes increased production of uric acid.
2. May Help Fight Respiratory Infections
A traditional use of meadowsweet herb is taking it in tea form to potentially protect against infections and viruses contributing to respiratory problems, such as colds and bronchitis. However, more research is needed to show how effective it is.
Based on available research it may help support respiratory health due to its antimicrobial effects and by decreasing phlegm production and protecting against inflammation of the nasal passageways.
3. Soothes Upset Stomach
Some people find that taking meadowsweet extract or tea can help decrease an upset stomach, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, stomach bloating and symptoms caused by peptic ulcers. It’s speculated that it helps soothe the lining of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract and has antimicrobial effects that can support gut health.
Some herbalists recommend that meadowsweet be combined with other herbal products for most digestive benefits, such as marshmallow root and chamomile for chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
4. May Help Fight Skin Inflammation
In addition to being taken orally, meadowsweet extract is sometimes used as a topical treatment for skin inflammation. It seems capable of decreasing skin problems such as acne breakouts and redness, although few studies have actually examined this use.
It’s thought that its skin-protective effects are likely due to the presence of salicylic acid and tannins, which are known to have natural astringent (cleansing) properties that can help keep pores from being clogged and infected. Antioxidants within meadowsweet may also help skin against signs of aging.
5. May Help Prevent Urinary/Bladder Problems
With its high potency of antioxidants and essential oils that possess antimicrobial properties, meadowsweet may be able to help kill pathogens that can wind up causing urinary, kidney and bladder infections.
Risks and Side Effects
Is meadowsweet tea safe? While it’s generally safe to consume this herb when taken in recommended dosages, too much meadowsweet is linked to potential side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and skin rashes/hives.
In rare cases other serious side effects have been reported, including trouble breathing/lung tightness, blood in the stool and kidney problems.
To avoid side effects, always follow dosage recommendations carefully. Be sure not to take large amounts of herbal products, especially for a long period of time, without working with an herbalist or doctor.
It’s unsafe for pregnant women or people with allergies to aspirin to use meadowsweet. If you have asthma, don’t use this product without being monitored by a doctor, since it can potentially cause lung tightness.
There are also possible interactions of meadowsweet herb and other medications. Use precaution if you take any of the following drugs when using this herb:
- choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate)
- narcotic painkillers
- Salsalate (Disalcid)
How to Use (Dosage + How to Make Tea)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not determined an appropriate range of doses for meadowsweet for adults. Products vary in terms of their potency, so always read dosage recommendations.
Meadowsweet has a “pleasant,” sweet flavor and aromatic, floral smell. It can be taken as a tincture, tea, extract or even diffused in your home to for its appealing potpourri-like aroma.
Additionally, in some countries it’s used to flavor wine, beer and vinegars and added to fruit and jams and desserts.
Most herbalists recommend that if you’re new to meadowsweet that you begin by drinking small amounts of tea made with this herb.
The most common way to use the dried flowers and fresh roots for their medicinal properties is to make herbal meadowsweet tea. This tea has long been used in traditional Asian systems of medicine as a natural treatment of rheumatism, gout, infections and fever.
Meadowsweet tea can be found in some health food stores or online. It’s sold as either dried, loose tea or in tea bags.
If you choose to make your own meadowsweet tea at home, try this recipe:
- Purchase dried meadowsweet leaves/flowers. Add 1–2 tablespoons (about 2–4 grams) to 1 cup of very hot water.
- Let the mixture steep for about 15 minutes.
- Strain the leaves, and then drink 1–3 cups per day.
Additionally, you can use the same mixture for a foot bath if you have painful feet or want to promote circulation.
- Meadowsweet is an aromatic plant in the rose family that is high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and essential oils.
- Is meadowsweet a painkiller? Its compounds, including flavonoids, ellagitannins and salicylic acid, can help fight pain and inflammation. In fact, this plant naturally contains some of the same active ingredients found in aspirin.
- Use it to potentially help treat heartburn, joint pain, colds and skin inflammation.
- It’s not intended for pregnant women, those taking painkillers, or people with sensitivity to aspirin or other salicylate-containing drugs.