Agrimony is native for Denmark. It grows along roadsides, wasteland, hedges and banks. Its natural habitat is woods and fields, but it takes to cultivation easily. Both the yellow flowers and the notched leaves give off a faint characteristic lemony scent when crushed.
In Greek Agrimone means ' to heal the eyes' and the Greeks used the plant to treat ailments affecting the eyes. The Anglo Saxons used the plant for snake bites and treatment for wounds. It contains tannin and bitter substance plus ethereal oil. It was used for leather tanning and dyeing. The whole plant yields a yellow dye.
The medicinal use of Agrimony in Denmark goes probably back to the Viking period, since its fruits were found in the Oseberg ship. It was a common used medicinal plant in monastery gardens. Monks and physicians used it for many ailments: liver and gallblatter disease, inflammation of the urinary system, compress for wounds and other skin damage, and as gargling water for inflammation in mouth and throat.
In the 1400s: the seeds were eaten as a protection against various diseases, they seeds were cruched and mixed with honey and goat's milk rubbed against headache, the leaves were used in compresses against fever and lung diseases, the juice from the plant in stomach trouble , warts were rubbed with the plant crushed in vinegar, a "blue eye" was treated with agrimony and egg white, etc.
Christiern Pedersen in 1533: the plant juice mixed with destilled water from Rumex to drink against the plague, winedecoct against malaria, juice against snake bite.
Henrik Smid 1546: destilled water from the plant stops cough, good for patients with malaria, kill intestinal worms.
Simon Paulli 1648: the doctors gave a syrup or a decoct of agrimony for a blocked up liver, the plant mixed in a herbal extract against syphilis, cooked with the root of alant used for bathing frost-bites in hands and feet.
Agrimony was also used as a tea or mixed in herbal teas.
Dried agrimony hung in beer prevents it from getting sour. The plant was also used in fodder for sheep.
Agrimony is not commonly used today, but has its place in traditional herbal medicine. It is frequently used in alternative medicine as a herbal mouthwash and a gargle ingredient and is applied externally in the form of a lotion to minor sores and ulcers.
Caution: this is an astringent herb, do not use if constipated. Do not use internally during pregnancy without discussing with your obstetrician.
Witches used it in spells to dispel negative energies and to ward off hexes. Agrimony was said to cause deep sleep. When placed beneath a man's head this sleep would last until it was removed. This passage is from an old English medical manuscript:
'If it be leyd under mann's heed
He shal sleepyn as he were deed;
He shal never drede ne wakyn
Till fro under his heed it be takyn.'
It was also said that the Anglo Saxons included Agrimony in charms and dubious preparations of blood and pounded frogs.
Dried spikes are poured over with a neutral snaps (in bottle or jar). Drawing time is about one week, then filter it and let it draw for some time. Thin your drink according to your taste.
Source: V.J. Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 3, 1979
photo ⓒ : grethe bachmann