The medicinal parts are the dried or fresh aerial parts collected during or shortly before the flowering season.
Flower and Fruit
The flowers are in loose terminal cymes. The petals are fused to a white, funnel-shaped, 1.5-mm tube. The border of the tube is divided in 4 and is 2 to 3.5 mm long. The 4 stamens are fused with the corolla. The involucre bracts are small, lanceolate, or almost bristlelike. The 2-seeded indehiscent fruit is globular, 2 to 3 mm long, and thickly covered with white barbed bristles.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
Sweet Woodruff is a 10 to 35 cm herbaceous perennial with a thin cylindrical circular rhizome. The stem is erect, quadrangular, and smooth. Apart from the bristly nodes, the stem is glabrous and glossy. The leaves are in false whorls of 6 to 9, the lower ones are obovate-oblong, the middle and upper ones are lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate. They are entire-margined, thorny tipped, glabrous, and rough-edged.
Sweet Woodruff is aromatic when dried; the taste is bitter and tangy.
The plant grows in northern and central Europe, Siberia, and northern Africa.
Sweet Woodruff herb is the fresh or dried aerial part of Galium odoratum. It is gathered during or shortly before flowering. The herb must be turned regularly while being dried.
Not to be Confused With
Gallium mollugo or Gallium sylvaticum
Master of the Wood, Woodwrad, Woodruff
Actions & Pharmacology
Compounds: In the Fresh Plant
O-hydroxycinnamic acid glucoside: melilotoside
Compounds: In the Dried Plant
Iridoids: asperuloside (0.05-0.3%), monotropein (0.04%), scandoside
The coumarin content may impart antiphlogistic, antiedematic, spasmolytic, and lymphokinetic properties. However, due to the low level of coumarin, the therapeutic effect is doubtful.
Indications & Usage
Sweet Woodruff is used as a treatment for nervous agitation, sleeplessness, nervous menstrual disorders, congested liver, jaundice, hemorrhoids, circulation disorders, and venous conditions.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
The freshly harvested plant contains melilotoside as a glycosidic precursor of coumarin. In the process of dehydration, coumarin is released (content up to 1% coumarin in freshly dried drug). Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. Headache and stupor can occur with the administration of higher dosages of the drug. Susceptible patients could experience liver damage following long-term administration. This effect is reversible following discontinuation of the drug. Liver enzyme values should be monitored.
Mode of Administration
The herb is obsolete as a drug in many countries.
To make a tea, place 2 teaspoonfuls (1.8 g drug) in one glass water. An infusion of 5% drug is used for insomnia, and a forehead poultice made of crushed herb is used for headache.
The average single dose is 1.0 g drug. The preparations can be taken during the day or shortly before going to bed.
The drug should be protected from light sources to avoid brown coloring.