Sweet Woodruff



COMMON NAME : Sweet Woodruff

FAMILY  :        Rubiaceae


Small native to UK and Europe, prefers shady woodland on alkaline soils, often found in beech woods but also tolerates acid soils.

PARTS USED :        Leaves harvested just before or at flowering


Widely used in the Middle Ages for external application to wounds and internally for digestive and liver problems. Popular in Germany as “May cup” a tonic drink. Also used for dyes  - root gives red and stems and leaves tan and grey-green dyes. Smells of new mown grass on drying and retains this aroma for years – hence old use as strewing herb, pot pourri and moth prevention.

Now used as a sedative for insomnia & nervous tension as well as the more traditional biliary obstruction, hepatitis and jaundice plus migraines and “weak stomach”. It also has antispasmodic, cardiac, diaphoretic and diuretic effects. Used dried or occasionally fresh but not normally used as a tincture.


·        Iridoid - asperuloside (bitter) converts on drying to anti-coagulant coumarins (these may cause giddiness and confusion in large doses) but can be converted to prostaglandins affecting uterus and blood vessels.  It is therefore also used for varicose veins and phlebitis, which makes it interesting to the pharmaceutical industry.

·        Anthraquinones - bitter & anti-spasmodic

·        Flavonoids - help with blood vessel integrity.

·        Tannins - (tonic.