Agrimony -a Country Herb.

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

In the not to distant past, the common agrimony was commonly planted as a medicinal herb in cottage gardens, and sought after in the countryside for the same purpose. In those days the services of a doctor or physician was beyond the means of all but the rich and the privileged few, thus the cottage garden and indeed, the countryside in general was the medicine chest of the masses. Agrimony, Agrimonia eupatoria featured prominently on the list of those seeking medicinal herbs.

Unlike today when the necessity of seeking out such plants has all but diminished, how many could recognise this {or many other } species, while out and about in the country side. In the past one would be taught and a young age to instantly recognize those plants that are beneficial And indeed, those that were not so {see my hub -Beautiful but are they deadly ? } . In the case of agrimony they would be taught to seek out the following features.


Components of Agrimony

Components of agrimony. CXourtesy of wikipedia.
Components of agrimony. CXourtesy of wikipedia.

The tall stems--

The tall erect stem is cylindrical appearing slightly rough which rises to 1-4 feet tall.{30-120cm} larger specimens do occur which may have a few branches adorning the stem, but in the main this species lacks branches. The stem is hairy.

They would be taught to recognise the foliage which on this plant are numerous with a salient outline. They vary in size. Those near the ground often attain the length of 7-8 inches {14-16cm}, while those higher up the stem are reduced to about three inches {6cm}. The whole leaf is divided along the midrib into leaflets {botanist refer to this type of leaf as being pinnate}. Although similar in structure the upper leaves have fewer leaflets than the lower ones, and they tend to be less cut into, thus having a simpler outline.

On the lower leaves there are pairs of larger leaflets terminating in a single one. In between these large lateral leaflets are smaller ones in the manner of those of the meadowsweet.

The main leaflets

The main leaflets of the agrimony increase in size towards the apex of the leaf where they tend to be one to one and half inches long.{3-4 cm}. They are toothed downy above and even more so beneath. The veins on the leaflets are a dominant feature.

Continuing their education of herb recognition one would then be taught to recognise the flowers. On this species they are small but numerous.Clustered together on slender terminal spikes, which gave rise to one of the plants country titles of church steeples. At the base of each flower which is situated stalk-less on the spike is a small bract.This bract is cut into three acute segments. The flowers are three quarters of an inch wide {1.4cm}. the salient feature of the flower is the five egg shaped petals which are relatively narrow in comparison to their length. They are slightly notched at the end and of a bright yellow colour.

The flowers open to face the sunlight until the petals have withered, then the head takes on a woody texture and bows away from the light, as if embarrassed to have lost its beauty. The seed vessels which succeed the flowers demise become bristly and eventually burr like in form, which cling to clothing and fur as a means of dispersal. This feature gives rise to other country titles for the plant such as cockle-burr, sticklewort or simply stick wort..

The education would continue by learning to recognise the scent of the flowers which give off a refreshing smell of apricot scent. The slightly reddish root also has a scent when dug up in the spring. the leaves to are slightly aromatic.

Those seeking the plant would know they may come upon it in grassland, hedgerow, meadow land, by road sides and on waste land. Once the art of recognition had been attained one would then need to know which part of the plant to use in herbal preparations along with the time of year it would need to be collected. In the case of agrimony this would be the dried aerial parts that were employed which would be harvested just before or during the flowering period which commences in June and continues until September.

Meadowsweet foliage

The foliage of the meadowsweet is arranged in a similar manner having smaller leaflets in between the larger ones and terminating in a single leaflet. Photograph by D.A.L.
The foliage of the meadowsweet is arranged in a similar manner having smaller leaflets in between the larger ones and terminating in a single leaflet. Photograph by D.A.L.

Flowers

The small flowers are arranged on long slender spikes. Photograph courtesy of Sten Porse.
The small flowers are arranged on long slender spikes. Photograph courtesy of Sten Porse.

Some of the Virtues of Agrimony.

Agrimony is considered to astringent ,thus it is not to be used with any one suffering from constipation. Conversely it is used to combat diarrhoea.  It has tonic and diuretic properties. It is also reputed to be anti-viral. The foliage was once incorporated into herbal pillows.

An infusion made from 1-2 tea spoons per cup of water is drank three times per day. It can also be used as a diuretic and to treat urinary and kidney infections. It is a general drink to help with jaundice and liver ailments, ulcers and digestive problems. 

A fomentation for drawing out stings and thorns was once used regularly. Many commercial products may be purchased from health shops and drug stores. Home preparations are now limited the most popular being an infusion used as a gargle to counteract the symptoms of throat infections. two tea spoons of the dried herb is infused with 250ml of boiling water. This is left to infuse for ten minutes. Gargle several times a day.

The Anglo Saxons called the plant garclive and used it as a wound herb.

Agrimony flowers

Agrimony flowers. Photograph courtesy of Pethan.
Agrimony flowers. Photograph courtesy of Pethan.

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Comments 5 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you to every body who have taken the time to leave a comment on INTRODUCING THE AGRIMONY A COUNTRY HERB They are appreciated.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi, B, there is such a lot to learn about herbs . I dont know howmany of my hubs you have read so far but there are many on herbs and their benefits. I live within about an hours drive of Beatrix Potter's farm looking forward to reading your hub on the subject. Go for it Brenda volunteer you will find it very rewarding and therapeutic . Let us see your photos. Long winded? never. Best wishes to you.


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 6 years ago

I have a friend in Stockport who is a herbalist, my dad swears by her potions, is that an unkind word, probably is. He takes his herbs religiously, and a few months ago, when he was prescribed to strong a dose of antiobitics, she came to visit him, and saved the day for him, helping him with a herbal remedy.

He takes marshmellow, from her for his cough, and she has adviced me to grate ginger into hot water for a drink, as i would love to wean my off coffee, but do not like many other drinks.

I really think i could become quite interested in the medicinal qualities of herbs, what with our friend, and your hubs. There seems so much to learn..... But i have the time at the moment.

Do you live anywhere near where Beatrix Potter had her farm. I have just written a hub about her work, do you see her work around everywhere. I would love to visit her stamping ground one day. She was such a beautiful artist..... lovely hub thanks for your explanation of the plants i know little about.

They have just opened an eco centre down the road, they have no funds, so are looking for volunteers, birds are apparantly beautiful there, and they have a shop and cafe, and lessons for lots of things. I am dusting down my camera and thinking of going down to volunteer my services. OOps this is a bit long winded sorry....... Brenda


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

MCWebster, Thank you for your appreciated comments, glad to have found a fellow herb lover. best wishes to you.


MCWebster profile image

MCWebster 6 years ago

Very interesting. I always enjoy learning about different plants and their uses - even if it is no longer used for that purpose! I have a very soft spot for herbs, especially. Thanks for a great hub!

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