Agrimony

Agrimony has had an important role in folklore traditions throughout the world. Its uses vary from soothing rashes and stopping bleeding to alleviating diarrhea.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Agrimony, common agrimony, church steeples, cocklebur, church steeples, liverwort, philanthropos, sticklewort, stickwort.
  • TCM nameXian He Cao
  • Scientific nameAgrimonia eupatoria
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionAsia, Europe
  • Main producer(s)Spain
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Agrimony

Agrimony is a medicinal herb with a long history of healing uses. Thought to be originated in Asia and Europe, it grows widely in western United States and parts of Africa. It possesses many medicinal benefits and is still considered a valuable plant in herbalism.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAnti-inflammatory, Astringent
  • Key constituentsGallotannins, ursolic acid
  • Ways to useHot infusions/tisanes, Liquid extracts, Tincture, Poultice, Essential oil
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingUse with caution

Health Benefits of Agrimony

The aerial parts of agrimony contain its extensive anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and astringent properties, which have found several traditional uses:

  • Relieving inflammatory pain. This is due to the ursolic acid present in agrimony, which acts as an anti-inflammatory.

  • Soothing burns, rashes, and hemorrhoids. This is also due to the agrimony's anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Encouraging blood clotting to stop bleeding wounds. This is due to its astringent properties.

Agrimony has been traditionally used to treat diarrhea, soothe sore throats, and to stop bleeding.

How It Works

The main benefits of agrimony can be attributed to its high tannin content, in particular gallotannins. Second in importance is the presence of ursolic acid, which is responsible for its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.

Agrimony volatile oil also contains coumarin, flavonoids, polysaccharides, and vitamin K. In addition, some of the compounds present are also antibacterial and work to increase blood flow, which is why agrimony has been used in the past against erectile dysfunction.

Horse chesnut and mallow also help reduce inflammation, and both have similar astringent benefits, while ginkgo improves blood circulation and, along with ginseng, it is thought to be useful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Side Effects

Although agrimony is safe when taken in therapeutic doses, people with pollen allergies may experience adverse reactions when in contact with this herb, including skin rash, itchiness, sneezing, congestion, and fatigue.

Cautions

When using agrimony in therapeutic doses, its is advised to avoid direct sunlight, since the herb increases skin sensitivity.

Agrimony must be avoided altogether during pregnancy and lactation.

How to Consume Agrimony

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFlowers, Leaves

The upper parts of the agrimony plant are used in medicinal preparations. Because this herb is not widely produced or processed commercially, agrimony preparations are typically homemade or made by herbalists and are not often standardized.

Main preparations: Essential oil, infusion, liquid extract, poultice, tincture

  • Essential oil. Extracted from all parts of the plant, agrimony oil is meant for topical use. Its astringent, antibacterial properties help healing wounds and reduce bleeding.

  • Infusion. Drinking a warm infusion of fresh or dried leaves of agrimony can aid digestive problems, and when added to a footbath it is said to relieve minor muscle tension. Agrimony tea can also be gargled in order to clear the voice and treat throat infections.

  • Liquid extract. Obtained from a distillation process, agrimony liquid extract has shown a strong antibacterial action.

  • Poultice. The crushed parts of the plant can be wrapped in gauze bandages and applied topically in order to prevent infections and accelerate healing.
  • Tincture. The upper parts of agrimony are covered with a neutral alcohol and left in a dark cabinet for few weeks. The result is a concentrated remedy than needs to be diluted in a glass of water in order to reap the medicinal benefits of the herb.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySpecialized health stores, Online herb stores

Agrimony is available year round at most places where herbal products are sold. Agrimony is available as raw dried leaves, stems, and flowers. It is also processed into ground power, liquid extract, and essential oil. Agrimony supplements are commonly sold in tablet form and are available at most specialized health stores, nutrition shops, and online.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFlowers, Seeds, Leaves
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLight (sandy)
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral)
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • Plant spacing average0.3 m (0.98 ft)
  • Potential diseasesMildew

Agrimony is a low-maintenance herb for those who do not have a lot of time to tend to plants. It grows easily from seed in most areas and does not require a lot of water.

Growing Guidelines

  • Agrimony prefers full sun, but it still thrives in partial shade.

  • The optimal soil for growing agrimony is light and well-drained with a pH of 6.0 - 7.0.

  • Agrimony plants are best grown 6 - 16 inches (15 - 40 cm) apart, and sown one inch (2.5 cm) deep. Germination usually takes 12 - 24 days.

  • Once harvest time arrives, leaves should be cut off before flowering, and then left to hang until dry.

  • Pests or diseases are not usually a concern, although powdery mildew can appear if excessively irrigated.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesDye

Plant Biology

Agrimony plants are erect, downy, aromatic perennials with slender spikes. Agrimony plants grow up to three feet (1 m) tall and have paired leaves, small yellow flowers, and tiny, hooked seeds that attach to animal fur to spread.

  • Classification

    Agrimonia eupatoria is a member of the Rosaceae family, which contains approximately 2,830 species of herbaceous, flowering plants, including apple (Malus domestica), apricot (Prunus armeniaca), blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), and cherry (Prunus spp.).

  • Related Species

    Agrimonia pilosa and Agrimonia procera are very similar to Agrimonia eupatoria and are used interchangeably for medicinal purposes. Agrimonia pilosa is often used in China to treat diarrhea and stop bleeding, and is still used in trauma and surgery in some Chinese hospitals. There are around 15 species of Agrimonia in the United States.

Historical Information

Agrimony gets its genus name from the Greek word agermone, meaning "healing to the eyes." It species name, eupatoria, is from Mithridates Eupator, a Pontus king famous for his profound knowledge of plant lore and his invention a complex "universal antidote" against poisoning.

In Ancient Greece, agrimony was used to remedy ailments of the eyes, and is it also well known in traditional Chinese medicine as a natural remedy for menstrual discomfort.

Popular Beliefs

According to folklore, agrimony was used by witches to ward off hexes. Practitioners of voodoo also used it as protection to repel jinxes and banish negative spirits - it agrimony was believed to protect against spells and sends curses back to the originator.

During the Victorian era, agrimony flowers were used to express gratitude and appreciation.

Economic Data

Aromatic spices form a significant part of the exportation industry worldwide, estimated in 2012 at a value of $1.6 million USD. Particularly in southern European countries, agrimony contributes greatly to that end. Spain leads the way in its production, generating 90% of the world's supply of its essential oil, though France, Italy, and Bulgaria also benefit from the industry. Fresh leaves and stems are desired for culinary purposes, but the distilled oil made from these parts has proved more economically fruitful.

Other Uses

Agrimony is often used as a dye, yielding a yellow hue. The shade depends on when the plant is harvested, ranging from dark to pale yellow. The tannins in agrimony have traditionally made it useful for processing leathers as well.

Bibliography