Following on from my previous post about old English folk remedies. Agrimony is another plant you should know about. Agrimony flowers are said to represent gratitude. Their bright yellow petals appear from June to August and produce a sweet, spicy odour like apricots. The perennial herb is related to the rose and can be found along the margins of woodlands, in meadows, pastures and banks.
The earliest mention of Agrimony as a folk medicine in Britain comes from Bald’s leechbook, written in the 9th century. It recommends that Agrimony be used as a medieval form of Viagra. The recipe states that the plant must be boiled in milk before being administered to a man who is “insufficiently virile". Strangely, it was said to have the exact opposite effect when you replaced the milk with Welsh beer, but I suspect this may have nothing to do with the Agrimony and a lot more to do with the strength of the beer! As time passed, Agrimony was no longer used as a cure for impotence, but was still employed in numerous other folk remedies.
Later folkish beliefs held that the pretty yellow flower was capable of healing musket wounds and warding off witchcraft. In Finland the plant was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, probably because it had previously been used in pagan rituals and therefore needed to be cleansed of its un-Christian cultural associations.
While the flowers brighten gardens and bouquets, the leaves can be added to teas in order to aid digestion. It has also been used to treat liver and bile duct troubles. Its tannins tone the mucus membranes in the gut, helping them to secrete and absorb. Being a mild herb, it works well for the treatment of digestive irritation in children. Colitis sufferers and people with peptic ulcers have also found it helpful. The bitter tasting plant can aid the proper functioning of the liver and gall bladder; the Germans still use it to treat gallstones. There are some simple external uses too. You can apply it to wounds as a salve, or mix it with water and use it as a mouthwash to help heal sore throats and inflamed gums.
The slender spikes of flowers have earned them the nickname of church steeples and the plant itself can grow as high as 60cm tall. You can easily find Agrimony growing in the English countryside and in other parts of the world with similar climates, but it is scarcely found in the barren hills of Scotland.