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Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)

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Also listed as: Galium odoratum, Asperula odorata
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Asperula odorata, Galium odoratum, herb walter, kiss-me-quick, master of the forest, master of the woods, our lady's lace, sweet scented bedstraw, Waldmeister, wood rove, wuderove.

Background
  • Sweet woodruff was widely used in herbal medicine during the Middle Ages, gaining a reputation as an external application to wounds and cuts and also taken internally in the treatment of digestive and liver problems. Today, it is valued mainly for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory affects.
  • It is native to Europe where it can be found from the Scandinavian countries to Britain. It is very popular in Germany where it is called Waldmeister or Master of the Forest. Sweet woodruff leaves are commonly used to flavor May wine in Germany and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers sweet woodruff safe when taken in alcoholic beverages.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, biliary/gall bladder disease (biliary obstructions), bladder disorders (obstructions), blood purifier, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive aid, diuretic, galactagogue (promotes lactation), gynecologic disorders (inflammation of the uterus), heart disorders (regulating heart activity), hepatitis, insomnia, jaundice, kidney cleanser, liver disorders, nervousness, sedative, stomachache, tonic (blood), varicose veins, wound care.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose of sweet woodruff. Nonetheless, a tea of sweet woodruff made by pouring 3 cups of boiled water over herb (1 ounce of dry herb or 1½ ounce of fresh herb) and letting the tea steep for 10 minutes has been used.
  • Tinctures of sweet woodruff made by using 8 ounces of dried herb mixed with 1½ cups of alcohol and 4 cups of water have also been taken.

Children (younger than 18 years):

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose of sweet woodruff in children, and use is not recommended.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to sweet woodruff.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Sweet woodruff is likely safe when consumed in amounts that are commonly used to flavor alcoholic beverages such as May wine.
  • Although not well documented in the scientific literature, sweet woodruff may cause headaches, mind-altering effects, vertigo, somnolence, central paralysis apnea (to stop breathing), or coma when consumed in high doses. Sweet woodruff may also increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary. Also, use cautiously in patients who have psychiatric disorders due to potential side effects.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Sweet woodruff is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Sweet woodruff contains coumarin derivatives. Sweet woodruff may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Sweet woodruff contains coumarin derivatives. Sweet woodruff may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Kovac-Besovic EE, Duric K. Thin layer chromatography-application in qualitative analysis on presence of coumarins and flavonoids in plant material. Bosn J Basic Med Sci 2003;3(3):19-26.
  2. Sulma T, Wierzchowska K. [Studies on the content of coumarin in the herbs of the woodruff (Herba Asperulae odoratae) throughout the vegetative period of the plant.]. Acta Pol Pharm 1963;20:77-82.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Flavoring Agents and Related Substances. 2005;
  4. Wierzchowska-Renke K. [Study of the content of 1-ascorbic acid in the herb Asperulae odoratae L. depending on the stage of its development in the period of vegetation]. Acta Pol Pharm 1969;26(2):181-185.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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