Health Benefits and Uses of Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)Health Benefits of Sweet Woodruff / Skin Care: (Burns, Cuts and Wounds) / Relieves Pain and Cramps: (Arthritis) / Kills Bacterial Infections: / Psychological Benefits: (Tranquilizer, Nervous System) / Respiratory Health: (Cold and Chest Congestion, Hypoxia) / Women's Health: (Menstrual Cycle, Uterus Inflammation) / Improves Digestive Health: / Liver Health: / Supports Cardiovascular Health - Heart Health: (Blood Clotting) / Eliminates Insects and Pests: (Insect Repellent) / Culinary and Fragrance / Textile Dyeing | Uses of Sweet Woodruff (Traditional Uses of Sweet Woodruff, Culinary Uses of Sweet Woodruff, Other Uses of Sweet Woodruff)

Woodruff is also called Sweet Woodruff, Sweet Scented Bedstraw, Bedstraw, Wild baby’s Breath, Master of the Wood, Kiss-Me-Quick, Rockweed, Mugwet, Sweet Grass and Hay Plant. This perennial plant belongs to Rubiaceae family and has creeping rhizome that grows in shady European deciduous forests. It is an aromatic and medicinal plant since the Middle Age basically in European countries. Sweet Woodruff is a perennially growing plant that spreads into clumps reaching a maximum height of 8 inches to 15 inches (20 cm to 38 cm). The flowers produced by Sweet Woodruff have a sweet hay aroma, which enhances as they dry out. Flowers are small, fragrant, four petaled that appears in loose cymes in spring. The plant exudes a strong odor of freshly mown hay when the foliage is crushed or cut. The intensity of aroma of foliage increases when dried. Dried leaves are used popularly in sachets or potpourris. Traditionally, it is used for treating digestive and bladder disorders, nervousness and hepatitis. This herb is native to central Europe, Siberia and North Africa, but it can also be found in the northern areas of the U.S. and Canada. This herb is used as a flavoring agent for May wine, which is a favorite springtime wine in Germany. Along with flavoring wine, sweet woodruff is used to flavor brandy, beer, juice, soft drinks, ice cream and herbal tea. In Europe, the plant is used for preparation of flavored beverages such as Maiwein or Maitrank. Leaves are also used to flavor teas and cold fruit drinks. Also it is commercially used in perfumes. Sweet Woodruff is a much loved small plant that is found growing on its own in the forests and also on hedge banks in shaded areas. It is easy to recognize this plant by its little white flowers that bloom on soft stalks during the period between May and June. Sweet woodruff produces slender, vivid green leaves, which grow in whorls resembling stars in succession something similar to cleavers or goose-grass just beneath the flowers. Each whorl of sweet woodruff comprises approximately 8 leaves. However, dissimilar to goose-grass, the stems of sweet woodruff are straight and smooth.

Sweet Woodruff is a perennial plant having a slender, crawling rootstock. Since Sweet Woodruff has a preference for forest lands and shady locales, when sweet woodruff is grown in partial shade, it develops best dark green foliage. Partial shade here denotes to places where it is difficult for sunlight to enter. If the branches of the plant that provide it shadow are cut away and complete sunlight are allowed to fall on the herb, it will lose its original color and become very pale rapidly. The tiny ball-shaped seeds of sweet woodruff are covered with bristles and they appear when the flowers have withered away. This herb is extremely distinguishing and can be identified or found without any difficulty.

Sweet Woodruff is considered to be an extremely valuable plant in Germany, where people consider spring to be incomplete without this plant, whose twigs are necessary for preparing May wine. In effect, Germans drink this wine in the form of a spring tonic as well as to greet the new season. Blended with fodder, sweet woodruff is given to cows as it provides their milk a delectable scent. However, it needs to be borne in mind that as in the case of sweet clover, when sweet woodruff becomes wet, it is likely to decompose and turn into molds, which produces an anticoagulant agent that may result in hemorrhages in the cattle. While the aroma of a majority of the herbs disappears when they dry out, the sweet hay scent of sweet woodruff actually becomes stronger when the plant is dried and it also lasts for several years. According to findings by researchers, this quality of sweet woodruff is attributed to coumarin, a chemical substance enclosed by the plant. Often this chemical substance is employed in the form of a fixative while manufacturing perfumes. Owing to the herb’s pleasing aroma, there was a time when sweet woodruff was employed in the form of an aromatic herb to perfume homes and churches. In addition, sweet woodruff was also used as a stuffing material for mattresses. When dried leaves are placed in closets, they impart a sweet fragrance to linen and also help to ward off moths.

In addition to its use as an aromatic herb, Sweet Woodruff has also been employed as a therapeutic herb of some significance. The fresh leaves of this herb are used for dressing cuts and wounds while a decoction prepared from the leaves serves as a cordial and stomach digestive. An herbal tea prepared from sweet woodruff leaves is used to treat liver ailments as well as in the form of a diuretic.

Sweet Woodruff is indigenous to Europe and also grows in Asia as well as the northern regions of Africa. This herb grows on its own in the forest lands and shaded locations. Sweet woodruff is harvested during the later part of spring when the plants are in full bloom.

Sweet Woodruff is a perennially growing herb, which serves as an excellent ground cover and spreads very fast. It is possible to propagate this plant by means of root division or cutting during spring. Alternately, sweet woodruff may also be grown by its seeds, which need to be sown immediately when then ripen. However, when grown by its seeds, the germination process is very sluggish.

Generally, Sweet Woodruff is not cultivated but gathered from the forests. Nevertheless, this plant can be grown beneath orchard trees as well as propagated by its seeds soon after they ripen. The seeds need to be sown in beds prepared with good soil. It is best to sow the seeds by July end or in the early part of August. Alternately, if you intend to propagate the plant by means of root division, it should ideally be done in spring or the early part of summer, immediately after the flowering season is over. The seedling ought to be planted in damp soils, at intervals of one foot, in places that are partly shaded.

The seeds of Sweet Woodruff take too much time to germinate and, therefore, it is best to adopt the root division method for its propagation. It is advisable that you either divide the roots of mature plants and sow them during spring or fall or take cuttings of mature plants and plant them for rooting in a mixture of perlite and peat moss. Plant these cuttings at least at a distance of one foot from each other. It may be noted that this plant is actually self-sowing and when sweet woodruff plants are established, they may turn out to be a pesky weed. The leaves of sweet woodruff are collected during the later part of spring prior to the appearance of the flowers. After harvesting, the leaves should be hung upside down in a dark place to dry them out. Alternately, the leaves, as well as the stems of the herb, may also be frozen for use when necessary.

As soon as the plant’s seed is somewhat mature and dry, it turns into a small rough ball that is densely covered with supple, curved hairs. These seeds are white underneath, but black-tipped and may get attached to the fur and feathers of animals and birds that may rush through the undergrowth. This way the sweet woodruff seeds are normally scattered.

Herbal plants represent a significant part of our natural habitat however, there has been an increasing concern over the negligence of these essential herbs by human beings. To a larger extent, certain important herbs are not mainly meant to be known by only the scientists, pharmacists or doctors rather ought to be acknowledged by everyone since these herbs are God's free drugs to us all. Apparently, people tend to use several drugs and medications without even knowing that the natural contents of such drugs is just right around their corner. Studies reveal that there has been an increasing demand for medicinal herbal products, which are usually available even sometimes without medical consultation.

Since the use of herbal products is highly likely to continue, it is then our responsibilities to take our time and identify the benefits of some medicinal herbs around us. One of such vital natural essential herb is the sweet woodruff, which is scientifically referred to as Galium odoratum L. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum L.), is a creeping rhizome that is perennial in nature and grows mainly in shady deciduous forests where beech trees are prevalent.

Researchers agree that Sweet Woodruff can be used for treating several diseases and disorders such as; heart irregularities, kidney problem, varicose veins, indigestion, swelling, liver disorder, migraine, uterine cramps, insomnia and menopausal problems. It can also be taken for the preventing and curing lung infections and gallbladder disorders. Sweet woodruff can also be taken to strengthen weak veins as well as to enhance normal blood circulation.

Often considered a forgotten herb, Sweet Woodruff can be an essential addition to any yard or lawn. With its pleasantly fresh smelling aroma, it can make any person feel like they’re walking through their own secret garden. Aside from being used as a type of air freshener, Sweet Woodruff also has some medicinal uses that range from improving lung disorders to alleviating cardiovascular issues. Sweet Woodruff contains a volatile oil that is made up of compounds such as hexanal, limonene, cineole, terpinene and borneol.

Sweet Woodruff has been traditionally used to treat stomach disorders, gallbladder, heart, circulatory vessels, liver, lungs and urinary tract. It is also used to calm patients with hysteria, restlessness or insomnia. When applied externally to the skin to soothe wounds and hemorrhoids, researchers have found it to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions.

Sweet Woodruff is thought to possess tonic properties and also has noteworthy anti-inflammatory and diuretic actions. The chemical substance coumarin and flavonoids enclosed by this herb are responsible for its positive effect in treating phlebitis and varicose veins. In addition, sweet woodruff has also been employed in the form of an antispasmodic and is administered to children and adults alike to cure sleeplessness or insomnia. It may be noted that Sweet Woodruff has a long reputation for being a tonic for curing liver ailments. It is also globally well known as the aromatic ingredient for making May wine and even to this day, this herb is used in punches as well as other drinks. Present day herbalists prescribe sweet woodruff in the form of a purgative as well as an anti-arthritic. Several studies have hinted that sweet woodruff is likely to be useful only for easing the symptoms of arthritis. Currently, people cultivate sweet woodruff primarily for its use as a ground cover. Sweet Woodruff possesses tranquilizing attributes and infusions prepared from this plant are ingested to treat insomnia as well as nervous irritability. In addition, sweet woodruff also puts off blood coagulation, reinforces the capillaries and is taken orally to cure thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a vein with a presence of thrombus).

This herb is rich in various nutrients. It contains l-ascorbic acid and flavonoids which are nutritious for human health. Various secondary sources report it contains citric, rubichloric, malic and tannic acids.

Skin Care:

Burns, Cuts and Wounds:

Squeezed Sweet Woodruff leaves contain tannin thus can be pressed on bruises, wounds and cuts to stop bleeding and for faster healing.

Studies done on animal models suggest that sweet woodruff helps in healing burn wounds. This may be due to its rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial compounds. Therefore, this plant can be used for the speedy recovery of burn.

Relieves Pain and Cramps:


Research has revealed that the Sweet Woodruff is anti-arthritic in nature thus has the capability of preventing and relieving arthritic symptoms.

Kills Bacterial Infections:

Sweet Woodruff is a bactericide that can act as a disinfectant and antiseptic thus capable of killing bacteria and inhibiting the growth of microorganism. Sweet Woodruff contains anthraquinone and its derivatives thus it is larvicidal, anti-oxidizing, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-viral. This means it is an excellent product to use for indigestion, any kind of painful stomach, swelling and all kinds of infection, lung and respiratory infections, kidney and bladder etc.

Psychological Benefits:


Dried leaves of sweet woodruff can be used for preparing herbal tea and decoctions that can act as a tranquilizer, help with insomnia and headaches. The dry extracts of sweet woodruff are also used as a sedative in many traditional medicinal systems. It thus helps in reducing hysteria, depression. Thus the leaves extracts are used for insomnia and nervous tension. However, it is noteworthy that taking this in large quantity can lead to vomiting and dizziness.

Nervous System:

It can be used for preparing herbal medicines that helps to relax and strengthen the nervous system.

Respiratory Health:

Cold and Chest Congestion:

Sweet Woodruff can be decocted and taken to loosen chest congestion, cold and cough.


Hypoxia is acute poisoning that occurs due to exogenous toxicants like cyanides, alcohol, acetone. Thus preventing the utilization of oxygen by blocking the processes of oxidation and reduction of cytochromes. There are very few herbal medicines that act against hypoxia.

Studies suggested that dry extract of Sweet Woodruff acts as a good anti hypoxic activity. Which is almost twice higher than that for the reference drug Bilobil without having any adverse effect.

Women's Health:

Menstrual Cycle:

This amazing plant is very helpful with painful uterine cramps during menstruation, as well as menopausal problems.

Uterus Inflammation:

The anti-inflammatory activity and the hormone-like compound Asperuloside which gets converted into prostaglandins of Sweet Woodruff help in reducing the inflammation of the uterus.

Improves Digestive Health:

Sweet Woodruff can be taken internally for the treatment of digestive disorders and also for liver problems.

Liver Health:

Sweet Woodruff extract helps in protecting the liver due to its anti-inflammatory activities and antioxidant activities. Therefore, the leaf extract can be used in hepatitis and jaundice. Sweet Woodruff is excellent at purification of the body, by helping your liver and gallbladder function properly and thus aiding your whole body to process and expel the waste.

Supports Cardiovascular Health - Heart Health:

Several researches have revealed that the Sweet Woodruff can be used for purifying the blood.

Researchers agree that Sweet Woodruff can be used for treating several diseases and disorders such as heart irregularities, varicose veins, strengthening the weak veins, enhancing the normal blood circulation and generally aiding in cardiovascular health.

Blood Clotting:

The plant contains coumarin which helps in the prevention of blood clotting. As the plant is rich in coumarin, therefore, this plant is grown in many places commercially for the production of the herbal anticoagulant.

Eliminates Insects and Pests:

Insect Repellent:

Sweet Woodruff can be dried and stored in clothing, linens and bedding in order to wade off insects and moths. It is a perfect fragrance for making perfumes.

Culinary and Fragrance

Due to the aromatic smell of the sweet woodruff, this flowers and leaves are used as fragrance for homes, offices etc. Sweet woodruff can be added to medicines to boost their taste and flavor. It is used for sweetening food, juice, jam, wines, beers, jelly, soft drinks, tea and ice cream etc. It can also be used as a food colorant.

Textile Dyeing

Sweet woodruff contains purpurin, anthraquinone and alizarin which makes it suitable for dyeing textiles, clothing and paintings.

Traditional Uses of Sweet Woodruff:

  • During the Middle Ages, it has the reputation as an external application to wounds and cuts and also taken internally in the treatment of digestive and liver problems.
  • In current day herbalism it is appreciated mainly for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory affect.
  • This herb is used for alleviating abdominal cramps and numerous intestinal disorders.
    It is used for treating gas, stomach upsets, kidney stones and various liver problems.
  • The leaves and young stems of these herbal plants work as anodyne in migraines, neuralgia and headaches.
  • Leaves are antispasmodic, cardiac, diaphoretic, and diuretic, sedative.
  • An infusion is used in the treatment of insomnia and nervous tension, varicose veins, biliary obstruction, hepatitis and jaundice.
  • It is grown commercially as a source of coumarin and is used to make an anticoagulant drug.
  • Homeopathic remedy made from the plant is used in the treatment of inflammation of the uterus.
  • Woodruff has been used to cure boils and heal inflammations.
  • In homeopathy, the plant is used as an antispasmodic and to treat liver impairment.
  • Bruised leaves have been applied topically to reduce swelling and improve wound healing.
  • Extracts and teas have been administered as expectorants.
  • In traditional medicine it has been used to cure restlessness, insomnia, stomachache, migraine, neuralgia, and bladder stones.
  • In European cultures, sweet woodruff is used for prophylaxis and therapy of respiratory conditions, and for gallbladder, kidney, and circulatory disorders.
  • It also has been applied topically for venous conditions such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  • Modern herbalists have used the herb as a laxative and an anti-arthritic.
  • Fresh leaves bruised and applied to cuts and wounds were said to have a healing effect.
  • Strong decoction of the fresh herb was used as a cordial and stomachic.
  • It effectively treats kidney and liver disorders.
  • It cures uterine cramps, menopause problems, nervousness, dropsy, varicose veins, poor digestion and heart problems.
  • Bruised leaves are put as a poultice on cuts and wounds.
  • Decoction of fresh leaves is cordial and stomachic.
  • It removes the biliary obstructions of the liver.
  • In current day herbalism it is valued mainly for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory affect.
  • Dried leaves are used as a tranquilizer.
  • It treats bladder stones, neuralgia, migraine, depression, restlessness and hysteria.
  • It improves appetite and reduces stomach pain.
  • It has also been used in the form of an antispasmodic and is administered to children and adults alike to cure sleeplessness or insomnia.
  • A homeopathic remedy made from the plant is used in the treatment of inflammation of the uterus.
  • Both Asperuloside (a terpenoid) and Coumarin (a benzopyrone) occur in some species of Galium. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

Culinary Uses of Sweet Woodruff:

  • Dry leaves have a wonderful aroma making them useful for various edible purposes. This herb is also used for numerous other purposes as well.
  • Leaves are cooked or consumed raw.
  • The leaves are coumarin-scented (like freshly mown hay), they are used as a flavouring in cooling drinks.
  • It is used for making May wine mainly in Germany.
  • It is used along with vodka for making a popular party drink in Germany.
  • This herb is used in the Georgian soft drink known as Tarhun.
  • The leaves are soaked in white wine to make Maitrank, an aromatic tonic drink that is made in Alsace.
  • Add the leaves to fruit salads.
  • Make a tea from green dried leaves and flowers.
  • Use it as a garnish.
  • In Germany, it is used as syrup for beer, sweet juice punch, soft drink, jelly jam, brandy, herbal tea and ice cream.
  • Stems and leaves are used as leaf vegetable.
  • Steep the dried stems or leaves and use it as a tea.
  • Slightly wilted leaves are used, the tea has a fresh, grassy flavour
  • A fragrant and delicious tea is made from the green-dried leaves and flowers.
  • The sweet-scented flowers are eaten or used as a garnish.
  • Mix the powder with fruit or honey.
  • Use the crushed woodruff as an ingredient in potpourri and sachets.
  • This herb is used in flavoring various beverages like beer, wine and brandy.

Other Uses of Sweet Woodruff:

  • In many countries, dried woodruff plants are used in Pot-Pourri.
  • It spreads rapidly at the roots.
  • It is used in the linen cupboard to protect from moths etc.
  • The hardy perennial plants are grown as ornamental ground cover.
  • A good ground-cover plant for growing on woodland edges or in the cool shade of shrubs.
  • It is used to stuff mattresses.
  • Infusion made from leaves is used in face wash.
  • A red dye is obtained from the root.
  • Soft-tan and grey-green dyes are obtained from the stems and leaves.
  • It is an ideal carpeting plant for bulbs to grow through.
  • Although the fresh plant has very little aroma, as it dries it becomes very aromatic with the scent of newly-mown grass and then retains this aroma for years.
  • It was also hung up in bunches in the home in order to keep the rooms cool and fragrant during the summertime.

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