FWD 2 Expanded Commission E: Meadowsweet

Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E


Latin Name: Filipendula ulmaria; syn. Spiraea ulmaria
Pharmacopeial Name: piraeae flos, Spiraeae herba
Other Names: bridewort, queen of the meadow


Meadowsweet is a tall, stout, fragrant, perennial herb, native to Europe and Asia, found in damp meadows and moist banks, naturalized in North America as an escape from cultivation, now found wild from Newfoundland and eastern Quebec to Nova Scotia, New England, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and as far west as Ohio (Grieve, 1979; HPUS, 1992; Lust, 1974).The material of commerce is obtained from Poland, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, and the United Kingdom (BHP, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

Meadowsweet was one of the three most sacred herbs used by ancient Celtic Druid priests. It is mentioned in the Knight's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer (fourteenth century C.E.), and described in old European herbals, including those of John Gerard (The Herball, 1597) and Nicholas Culpepper (The English Physitian, 1652). The analgesic substance salicin was first isolated from meadowsweet leaves in 1827. Salicylic acid was made in 1838, and synthesized in 1859, which provided the basis for acetylsalicylic acid, first produced in 1899. The word aspirin owes its origin to meadowsweet's former genus name Spiraea, having been coined from 'a' (for acetyl) and 'spirin' (from Spiraea) (Bown, 1995; Duke, 1985; Grieve, 1979). Meadowsweet's traditional use in Britain eventually spread to India where it is now used somewhat in Ayurvedic medicine. Meadowsweet is official in the French Pharmacopoeia and also monographed in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia, the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia and British HerbalCompendium, the Commission E monographs, and the German Standard Licenses (BAnz, 1998; Bradley, 1992; Braun et al., 1997; Karnick, 1994; Ph.Fr.X, 1990; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia specifically indicates its use for prophylaxis and treatment of peptic ulcer and for rheumatic muscle and joint pains (Karnick, 1994).

In Germany,meadowsweetis licensed as a standard medicinal tea, approved in the Commission E monographs, and used for feverish common colds for which a sweat treatment is desired.The Commission E specifies a tea infusion dosage form and it appears as a component of some influenza, rheumatism, and kidney-bladder compound herbal tea drugs (BAnz, 1998;Braun et al., 1997; Meyer-Buchtela, 1999;Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).In German pediatric medicine, meadowsweet is an antipyretic and diaphoretic component of an effective influenza tea combined with willow bark, tilia flower, chamomile flower, and orange peel (Schilcher, 1997). The American Herbal Products Association gives it a Class 1 rating (herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately) (McGuffin et al., 1997). It is not commonly found in consumer products in the U.S. market, though medical herbalists and naturopaths include it in some prescribed formulas.

The approved modern therapeutic applications for meadowsweet are supportable based on its history of use in well established systems of traditional medicine, phytochemical investigations, and pharmacological studies in animals.

Pharmacopeial grade meadowsweet must be composed of the driedaerial (aboveground) parts (flower, leaf, and stem), collected when the plant is in bloom. Botanical identity must be confirmed by thin-layer chromatography (TLC) as well as by macroscopic andmicroscopic examinations and organoleptic evaluation.It must contain not less than12% water-soluble extractive, among other quantitative standards (BHP, 1996).The German Standard License monograph requires the dried flower as opposed to the dried aerial parts. A test for absence of known adulterants (e.g., elder flower) is also required among other purity tests. The Standard License includes specific packaging requirements for shelf-life stability and indications for use, dosage, and mode of administration (Braun et al., 1997).


Meadowsweet flower consists of the dried flower of Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maximowicz (syn. Spiraea ulmaria L.) [Fam. Rosaceae] and its preparations in effective dosage. Meadowsweet herb consists of the dried, above-ground parts of F. ulmaria (L.) Maximowicz, harvested during flowering season, and its preparations in effective dosage. The preparation contains flavonoids, essential oil, and, mainly in the flowers, phenol glycosides.

Chemistry and Pharmacology

Meadowsweet contains 1015% polyphenolic tannins, especially rugosin-D; 0.51.0% flavonoids (up to 6% in the fresh flowers), mostly spireoside (quercetin-4'-glucoside) and other quercetin and kaempferol derivatives; 0.30.5% phenolic glycosides, mostly spiraein and monotropitin, the primeverosides of salicylaldehyde and methyl salicylate, also isosalicin, a glucoside of salicyl alcohol; about 0.2% volatile oil, mainly salicylaldehyde (up to 75%); mucilage; and ascorbic acid (Bradley, 1992; Braun et al., 1997; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

The Commission E did not report pharmacological actions for meadowsweet.

The British Herbal Compendium reported anti-inflammatory, diuretic, stomachic, and astringent actions (Bradley, 1992).


The Commission E approved the internal use of meadowsweet as supportive therapy for colds.

The British Herbal Compendium indicates its use for atonic and acid dyspepsia, gastritis, peptic ulceration, and rheumatic and arthritic pains (Bradley, 1992). In France, traditional indications for use are allowed, including for fever and influenza (Bradley, 1992; DPM, 1990). The German Standard License for meadowsweet tea indicates its use for feverish common colds for which a sweat treatment is desired and also to increase the amount of urine (Bradley, 1992; Braun et al., 1997; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).


Meadowsweet flowers contain salicylate. They should not be used where a salicylate sensitivity exists.

Side Effects

None known.

Use During Pregnancy and Lactation

No restrictions known (McGuffin et al., 1997).

Interactions with Other Drugs

None known.

Dosage and Administration

Unless otherwise prescribed: 2.5-3.5 g per day of cut meadowsweet flower or 4-5 g per day of cut meadowsweet herb, and other galenical preparations for infusions; a cup of the infusion drunk as hot as tolerable several times daily.

Infusion: Steep 2-3 g in 150 ml boiled water for about 10 minutes.

Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2-3 ml.


BAnz. See Bundesanzeiger.

Bown, D. 1995. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. New York: DK Publishing, Inc. 17, 283.

Bradley, P.R. (ed.). 1992. British Herbal Compendium, Vol. 1. Bournemouth: British Herbal Medicine Association.

Braun, R. et al. 1997. Standardzulassungen f r FertigarzneimittelText and Kommentar. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP). 1996. Exeter, U.K.: British Herbal Medicine Association. 131132.

Bundesanzeiger (BAnz). 1998. Monographien der Kommission E (Zulassungs- und Aufbereitungskommission am BGA f r den humanmed. Bereich, phytotherapeutische Therapierichtung und Stoffgruppe). Kln: Bundesgesundheitsamt (BGA).

Direction de la Pharmacie et du Mdicament (DPM). 1992. Bulletin Officiel (Fascicule spcial) No. 90/22 bis. [English edition]. Paris: Ministre des Affaires Sociales et de la Solidarit.

Duke, J.A. 1985. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 196197.

Grieve, M. 1979. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). 1992. Arlington, VA: Pharmacopoeia Convention of the American Institute of Homeopathy.

Karnick, C.R. 1994. Pharmacopoeial Standards of Herbal Plants, Vols. 12. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. Vol. 1:144145; Vol. 2:91.

Lust, J.B. 1974. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books. 269270.

McGuffin, M., C. Hobbs, R. Upton, A. Goldberg. 1997. American Herbal Product Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Meyer-Buchtela, E. 1999. Tee-RezepturenEin Handbuch f r Apotheker und rzte. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Pharmacope Franaise Xe dition (Ph.Fr.X.). 19831990. Moulins-les-Metz: Maisonneuve S.A.

Schilcher, H. 1997. Phytotherapy in PaediatricsHandbook for Physicians and Pharmacists. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers. 41, 6364, 113.

Wichtl, M. and N.G. Bisset (eds.). 1994. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers.

Additional Resources

Barnaulov, O.D. and P.P. Denisenko. 1980. [Antiulcerogenic action of a decoction from flowers of Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim] [In Russian]. Farmakol Toksikol (Moscow) 43(6):700705.

Csed, K. et al. 1993. The antibiotic activity of Filipendula ulmaria. Planta Med 59(7):A675.

Hnsel, R., K. Keller, H. Rimpler, G. Schneider (eds.). 19921994. Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed. Vol. 46. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.

Hrhammer, L., R. Hnsel, W. Endres. 1956. ber die Flavonglykoside der Gattungen Filipendula und Spiraea. Arch Pharm (Weinheim) 289(61):133140.

Malhotra, S.C. 1990. Phytochemical Investigations of Certain Medicinal Plants Used in Ayurveda. New Delhi, India: CCRA & S, Government of India.

Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Novikova, N.N. 1969. Use of Filipendula ulmaria in medicine. Tr Perm Farm Inst 267270.

Wichtl, M. (ed.). 1997. Teedrogen, 4th ed. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Yanutsh, A.Y. et al. 1982. A study of the antiulcerative action of the extracts from the supernatant part and roots of Filipendula ulmaria. Farm Zh (Kiev) 37:5356.

This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E MonographsTherapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. M. Blumenthal, W.R. Busse, A. Goldberg, J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, C.W. Riggins, R.S. Rister (eds.) S. Klein and R.S. Rister (trans.). 1998. Austin: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications.

1) The Overview section is new information.

2) Description, Chemistry and Pharmacology, Uses, Contraindications, Side Effects, Interactions with Other Drugs, and Dosage sections have been drawn from the original work. Additional information has been added in some or all of these sections, as noted with references.

3) The dosage for equivalent preparations (tea infusion, fluidextract, and tincture) have been provided based on the following example:

  • Unless otherwise prescribed: 2 g per day of [powdered, crushed, cut or whole] [plant part]
  • Infusion: 2 g in 150 ml of water
  • Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2 ml
  • Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 10 ml

4) The References and Additional Resources sections are new sections. Additional Resources are not cited in the monograph but are included for research purposes.

This monograph, published by the Commission E in 1994, was modified based on new scientific research. It contains more extensive pharmacological and therapeutic information taken directly from the Commission E.

Excerpt from Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs
Copyright 2000 American Botanical Council
Published by Integrative Medicine Communications
Available from the American Botanical Council.