Melilot - Information & Medicinal Uses of this Herb
Information & Medicinal Uses of this Herb
properties and Uses: Aromatic; carminative; expectorant; antithrombotic; anti-spasmodic; antibiotic. Formerly used in a wide range of conditions. May be taken regularly to help prevent thrombosis; also to treat bronchial catarrh and flatulence. Externally applied to wounds and skin inflammations and can be used with care on inflamed eyes. The seeds possess antibiotic activity. Formerly used in herb beer; flowers and seeds used to flavour Gruyere cheese, snuff and smoking tobacco. Limited cosmetic use where hay-like aroma is required. Large doses are emetic.
parts Used Medicinally The whole herb is used, dried, for medicinal purposes, the flowering shoots, gathered in May, separated from the main stem and dried in the same manner as Broom tops.
The dried herb has an intensely fragrant odour, but a somewhat pungent and bitterish taste.
Constituent Coumarin, the crystalline substance developed under the drying process, is the only important constituent, together with its related compounds, hydrocoumaric (melilotic) acid, orthocoumaric acid and melilotic anhydride, or lactone, a fragrant oil.
Medicinal Action and Uses The herb has aromatic, emollient and carminative properties. It was formerly much esteemed inmedicine as an emollient and digestive and is recommended by Gerard for many complaints, the juice for clearing the eyesight, and, boiled with lard and other ingredients, as an application to wens and ulcers, and mixed with wine, 'it mitigateth the paine of the eares and taketh away the paine of the head.'
Culpepper tells us that the head is to be washed with the distilled herb for loss of senses and apoplexy, and that boiled in wine, it is good for inflammation of the eye or other parts of the body. The following recipe is from the Fairfax Still-room book (published 1651): 'To make a bath for Melancholy. Take Mallowes, pellitory of the wall, of each three handfulls; Camomell Flowers, Mellilot flowers, of each one handfull, senerick seed one ounce, and boil them in nine gallons of Water untill they come to three, then put in a quart of new milke and go into it bloud warme or something warmer.' Applied as a plaster, or in ointment, or as a fomentation, it is an old-fashioned country remedy for the relief of abdominal and rheumatic pains.
It relieves flatulence and in modern herbal practice is taken internally for this purpose.
The flowers, besides being very useful and attractive to bees, have supplied a perfume, and a water distilled from them has been used for flavouring.
The dried plant has been employed to scent snuff and smoking tobacco and may be laid among linen for the same purpose as lavender. When packed with furs, Melilot is said to act like camphor and preserve them from moths, besides imparting a pleasant fragrance.
'In Switzerland, Melilot abounds in the pastures and is an ingredient in the green Swiss cheese called Schabzieger . The Schabzieger cheese is made by the curd being pressed in boxes with holes to let the whey run out; and when a considerable quantity has been collected and putrefaction begins, it is worked into a paste with a large proportion of the dried herb Melilotus, reduced to a powder. The herb is called in the country dialect "Zieger kraut," curd herb . The paste thus produced is pressed into moulds of the shape of a common flowerpot and the putrefaction being stopped by the aromatic herb, it dries into a solid mass and keeps unchanged for any length of time. When used, it is rasped or grated and the powder mixed with fresh butter is spread upon bread. ' (Syme and Sowerby, English Botany .)