While sweet woodruff was once sewn into cotton bags and hung in closers to prevent clothes from becoming musty, it also was a popular diuretic with liver stimulating properties, according to medieval herb books. Today, a tonic made with woodruff and whit wine is thought to strengthen and invigorate the heart and gladden the spirits.
Plant Facts: A member of the madder family, this small (4-8 inches tall) shade-loving plant is related to coffee and henna. The fresh plant tastes slightly bitter and has no odor, but when crushed or wilted it releases a sweet scent similar to that of fresh bay.
Origin: Woodruff is native to most of Europe and the Middle East. It is found predominantly in shady, deciduous forests, where it grows in dense clusters. Woodruff is also cultivated in gardens as a medicinal plant.
Parts used: Only the above ground portion of the plant is used in natural medicine. It should be harvested before or just as it starts to flower.
Constituents : Woodruff contains coumarin glucosides, which ferment slightly as they dry and release coumarin and dicumarol, its medicinally active constituents. These molecules act as anticoagulants , so woodruff can be used to counteract excessive blood clotting.
Indications: Woodruff has been used both internally as a tea and topically as a compress for varicose veins and thromobophlebitis. An anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic it soothes intestinal discomfort, especially abdominal cramps, as well as headaches and migraines. It has also been valued as a treatment for liver disease and kidney stones and as a strengthener for the heart.
Take care : In large doses, woodruff may cause internal bleeding. Do not use it if you are pregnant or taking conventional medication for circulatory problems.
Used as a mild sedative and antispasmodic.
Methods of Administration
Curative Tea :
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 rounded tsp. of dried woodruff. Steep for 5 min; strain. Drink 2-3 cups a day, preferably unsweetened.
Steep 2 tsp. of dried woodruff in 1 cup of cold water for 8 hrs; strain. Drink 1-2 cups every day to strengthen the heart.
Wine Punch :
Add no more than ¾ tsp. of fresh, slightly wilted woodruff to 1 qt. of dry, slightly sweet white wine. The herb is more aromatic when slightly wilted. Let the punch sit for a few hrs, then strain and serve chilled.
To combat insomnia, take ½ tsp. of powdered woodruff mixed with honey or fruit puree 30 min before bedtime.
Soothing Compress :
Grind the fresh herb with a mortar and pestle. Spread it on a cloth, fold the cloth up and apply it to the forehead. Caution : Do not let the plant pulp touch the skin.
Potpourri and sachets :
To encourage sleep, make a woodruff pillow. To add a fresh scent to a room, display a bowl of the dried herbs. Or sweeten a closet with an herb sack.