Meadowsweet, Spiraea alba var. latifolia

MeadowsweetFamily: Rosaceae, the Rose Family

Description: Native shrub 0.3-1.2m tall. White-pink flowers that come to a conical head, leaves alternately arranged and coarsely toothed, paler underneath

Abundance: Common

Habitat: Wetlands, coastal thickets, wet fields

Plant Parts Used: Leaves

Medicine: Nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, pain relief

Food: Edible flowers and buds, tea

Besides willow (see my post on willows here), meadowsweet is probably the best known wild form of aspirin (aSPIRin—like SPIRaea). A tea of the leaves is a great pain reliever. This tea also helps upset stomachs, nausea, and heartburn; however, Terry-Anya said that meadowsweet should not be taken by people who have an aspirin allergy. This plant is effective for combating nausea, including nausea related to pregnancy, hyperacidity, and easing pain, inflammation, and headaches. Meadowsweet is also often included in formulas for acid reflux and bruises. Deb uses the fresh flowering tops to make a tincture or dried to make a tea. The Iroquois would include meadowsweet in a medicine for treating nausea and vomiting. Meadowsweet tea was also drunk casually by a diversity of Native American tribes. Linda Runyan suggests eating the flowers and buds, drinking them as tea, or drying them for a sugar substitute.

Caution: Meadowsweet should not be used by people who have an aspirin or salicylate allergy.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.

References:

  • Hayes, Terry-Anya. Personal interview. 27 Oct. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Moerman, Daniel. “Native American Ethnobotany: A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants.” UM-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. <http://herb.umd.umich.edu/&gt;.
  • Reitze, Raymond and Nancy. Personal interview. 8, 15 Oct. 2010.
  • Runyon, Linda. From Crabgrass Muffins to Pine Needle Tea: a National Wild Food Field Guide. Shiloh, NJ: Wild Food, 2002. Print.
  • Soule, Deb. Personal interview. 4 Feb. 2011.
  • Szwed, Sue. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2010.
  • Turner, Nancy J., and Patrick Von Aderkas. The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. Portland:  Timber, 2009. Print.
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