Updated 18 February 2013


Queen of the meadow, or meadowsweet, is a wildflower found growing along the banks of rivers and streams. Its fragrant, fragile cream flowers are set against dark green leaves.


Queen of the meadow, or meadowsweet, is a wildflower found growing along the banks of rivers and streams. Its fragrant, fragile cream flowers are set against dark green leaves.

The plant belongs to the Rosaceae family and is known in botanical circles as Filipendula ulmaria: the name ulmaria stems from Ulmus, meaning ‘elm’, and was believed to have been attributed to meadowsweet as a result of the likeness between the plants.

Like mistletoe, ancient Celtic druids considered meadowsweet sacred, with its sweet flowers historically used as additives to herbal beer and wine. In Europe the herb has long been used as a folk remedy for colic and a variety of stomach ailments, as well as for relieving eye burning and itching. The medicinal potion was made by boiling the flowers of meadowsweet in wine.

There are numerous varieties of the meadowsweet plant, but most grow two to four feet in height. The entire plant boasts a pleasing taste and aroma – the leaves have an almond fragrance and the flowers produce a sweet honey scent. Thanks to its pleasant flavour, meadowsweet was a popular stewing herb in Elizabethan times. Later, in Italy, salicylic acid was produced from the flower buds and bark, and in 1899 the pharmaceutical company Bayer formulated aspirin, a name derived from Spiraea ulmaria.

Parts used

Aerial parts and flowers

Active compounds

Volatile oil:

  • Ethylsalicylate
  • Methylsalicylate
  • Meth-oxybenzaldehyde
  • Salicylaldehyde

Phenolic glycosides:

  • Spiraein
  • Monotropin
  • Gaultherin 


  • Spiraeoside
  • Rutin
  • Hyperoside
  • Avicularin

Polyphenolics and tannins:

  • Hydrolysable


  • Chalcones
  • Phenylcarboxylic acids
  • Coumarin
  • Vitamin C

Medicinal action

  • Antacid
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Aromatic
  • Astringent
  • Carminative
  • Diuretic
  • Sub-tonic

How meadowsweet works

Like aspirin, the salicylate compounds in meadowsweet relieve pain and reduce inflammation, but along with other constituents, the herb actually protects and soothes the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract, while the tannins have an astringent action in the bowel. Thanks to the salicylic component then, meadowsweet is useful in treating arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders, as well as conditions of the digestive system, without negative side-effects.

The mild antiseptic action of meadowsweet also combats general infection and has diuretic properties, which help eliminate toxic wastes and uric acid from the system. Additional relaxant properties of meadowsweet help release spasm and induce restful sleep and its diaphoretic action (increases perspiration) helps reduce fever.

What is it used for

Musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis 

Digestive disorders:

  • Hyperacidity
  • Ulcers
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Heartburn
  • Gastritis
  • Dropsy
  • Indigestion
  • Hiatus hernia


  • Cystitis
  • Urethritis
  • Fluid retention
  • Kidney stones

Available forms of meadowsweet in South Africa

  • Meadowsweet herb powder
  • Meadowsweet herb cut



Infuse one to two teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Drink three times a day or whenever needed.

l-4ml three times a day for stomach ailments. 40 drops three times a day for arthritis.


There is a scarcity of information available on the safe consumption of meadowsweet herbal products. Consult a physician before using this herb.

(Zaakirah Rossier, Health24, updated October 2010)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Exercise benefits for seniors »

Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running

Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness

When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them.