Filipendula ulmaria, commonly known as Meadowsweet, is a perennial herb in the family Rosaceae, which grows in damp meadows. It is native throughout most of Europe and western Asia though it has been successfully introduced and naturalized in North America.
Meadowsweet has also been referred to as Queen of the Meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Meadow Queen, Lady of the Meadow, Dollof, Meadsweet and Bridewort.
The stems are 1–2 m (3-7 ft) tall, erect and furrowed, reddish to sometimes purple. The leaves are dark green on the upper side and whitish and downy underneath, much divided, interruptedly pinnate, having a few large serrate leaflets and small intermediate ones. Terminal leaflets are large, 4–8 cm long and three to five-lobed.
The name ulmaria means "elmlike", an odd epithet as it does not resemble the elm (Ulmus) in any way. However, like slippery elm bark, the plant contains salicylic acid, which has long been used as a painkiller, and this may be the source of the name. However, the generic name, Filipendula, comes from filum, meaning "thread" and pendulus, meaning "hanging." This is possibly said to describe the root tubers that hang characteristically on the genus, on fibrous roots.
Active ingredients: compounds of salicylic acid, flavone-glycosides, essential oils and tannins.
In 1897 Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin, derived from the species, which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally Acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffman's employer Bayer AG after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria. This gave rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as NonSteroidal AntiInflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs.
This plant contains the chemicals used to make aspirin, a small section of root, when peeled and crushed smells like Germolene, and when chewed is a good natural remedy for relieving headaches.
A natural black dye can be obtained from the roots by using a copper mordant.
It is known by many other names, and in Chaucer's The Knight's Tale it is known as Meadwort and was one of the ingredients in a drink called "save." It was also known as Bridewort, because it was strewn in churches for festivals and weddings, and often made into bridal garlands. In Europe, it took its name "queen of the meadow" for the way it can dominate a low-lying, damp meadow. In the 16th century, when it was customary to strew floors with rushes and herbs (both to give warmth underfoot and to overcome smells and infections), it was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. She desired it above all other herbs in her chambers.