The Magic of Meadowsweet
“Through grass, through amber'd cornfields, our slow Stream--
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children, yellow as the cream
Of those great cows--winds on as in a dream
By mill and footbridge, hamlet old and small
(Red roofs, gray tower), and sees the sunset gleam
On mullion'd windows of an ivied Hall.
There, once upon a time, the heavy King
Trod out its perfume from the Meadowsweet,
Strown like a woman's love beneath his feet,
In stately dance or jovial banqueting,
When all was new; and in its wayfaring
Our Streamlet curved, as now, through grass and wheat.”
- William Allingham
And it is with that that I want to introduce one of my favourite and most treasured plants that grows in these parts, Filipendula Ulmaria, Crios Conchulainn or meadowsweet. I usually prefer the folk names of plants than the scientific latin ones, more often than no- there is a story attached that reminds us of the old worlds and old people that had deep relationships with all that grew around them. Meadowsweet is called so because of how it flavoured the mead, a honeyed alcohol, and not after its breathtaking presence in a country meadow as I thought for many years. Although this is something so beautiful that it really does bring tears to my eyes. I feel like I was born of a meadow, in the same way that some land dwelling folk long for the ocean, I long for fields of wild flowers, and beds shadowed by stalks and shaded from the winds. And when I do stumble upon a wide expanse with untamed flowers blossoming I feel at home.
Not too long ago, my partner was driving around West Cork and he sent me a video of one such meadow, brimming with these sweet creamy flowers and two hares running across the field ahead of it (I promise it’s true) and I knew I had to go and breath it in so on the next sunny day we drove back to soak up the dreamy sight and smells. She is one of the pivotal plants of my childhood, and when I sit with her, more so than any other plant are memories evoked- walking along country lanes, the feeling of my hand in my mother’s, so it’s really no surprise that she graces the opening page on my website. The Irish name for the plant comes from it’s association with Cuchulainn as it is said to have calmed his rage. It is also sometimes called Bridewort and was strewn along the aisles of bride’s past and tied up in posies for them to carry at their hearts.
Beloved by bees, she grows along damp waysides, meadows, marshes and woods and flowers from June until September, carrying the transition of seasons on a creamy grace. Her flower smell sweet and soft, quite like nothing else and her leaves smell like almonds. Fresh leaf tea in springtime and floral tea and infusion in late summer are some of my favourite ways to communicate with her.
Medicinally, she is used as an antacid, analgesic, antidiarrheal and antipyretic, for treating, fever, pain, urinary tract infections and nausea and acid reflux.
I have found that a simple tea with the fresh floral tufts offers soothing, calm and counteracts anxiety, and it is especially sweet paired with fresh lemon balm in a morning tisane or left to cool and sweetened with a little honey.