Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim. or Spirea ulmaria L.belongs to Rosaceae family : A large, herbaceous plant with dentate, imparipinnate  leaves and white/ yellow flowers disposed in panicles . This well-named, tall, almost haughty flower dominates and embalms the wet prairies and river-banks of temperate regions. Its distinctive and heady scent is due to one of its organic compounds, methyl salicylate.Its reputation is also due to its chemical composition – one of its active ingredients, salicylaldehyde, when oxidised, become salicylic acid.
The drug – or part of the plant referenced in the Pharmacopeia – for homeopathy as well as phytotherapy – is the flowering summit.
Chemical composition and active ingredients
During the drying process, phenolic glycosides  decay as salicylaldehyde, also called spirulina and methyl salicylate. The plant also contains flavonoids, tannins, esters and minerals (including iron, sulphur, and calcium).
The assessment of the content in active ingredients of the mother tincture is measured in total flavonoids expressed as spiraeosides (a characteristic tracer).
Pharmacology and medical use
The medical uses of meadowsweet have been listed since the nineteenth century. It was used essentially for its antirheumatic and antipyretic properties. Since that time, the plant has been the object of several pharmacological studies which revealed its various activities :
- antibacterial activity against many strains (including Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae…) ;
- immuno-modulatory activity in decoction by the stimulation of macrophages  ;
- anticoagulant activity, similar to heparin – antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, comparable to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ;
- protective activity of the gastric mucosa in mice against lesions caused by the administration of salicylic acid ;
- in vitro anti-tumor activity on human cells of melanoma B16.
In a clinical study, 48 patients suffering from dysplasia of the cervix made a local application of an ointment made from a decoction of meadowsweet – complete remission was noted in 52% of the cases.
Meadowsweet is also diuretic, sudorific and astringent (presence of tannins). It is recommended in cases of rheumatism, joint pains, chills, fever and flu with headaches.
Meadowsweet is an excellent drainer which stimulates the eliminatory functions of the organism – renal, urinary, digestive, circulatory and lymphatic. It is adapted to organisms intoxicated by metabolic waste, and will act on a wide range of symptoms, such as joint and rheumatismal pains, attacks of gout, water retention with oedema, cellulite, as well in cases of indigestion with acid reflux or disorders of the venous circulation (varicose veins, phlebitis).
The plant is used by homeopathy in low dilutions as a urinary and lymphatic drainer. In phytotherapy, it facilitates the urinary and digestive eliminatory functions, helps in cases of fever and flu, and is also used as pain killer (headaches, toothache).The plant is a component of phytotherapeutic and homeopathic specialties – herbal teas (light decoction) and low homeopathic dilutions are the most effective galenic forms for the purposes of drainage and detoxification.
No toxicity, except in cases of a specific sensibility to salicylates or anticoagulant treatment.
Meadowsweet (flowers and flowered summit) belongs to the list of medicinal plants which may be sold over the counter (OTC), as well as the list of plants authorised for sale as food complements.
In decoction, Meadowsweet acts to protect the gastric mucous against lesions caused by salicylic acid; this fact confirms the interest of its use in whole form, rather than an isolated active molecule. Certain active ingredients modulate the effects of other compounds, as Doctor Morel points out (Practical treatise of Phytotherapy, Grancher, 2009).
- Anton R, Wichtl M., Plantes thérapeutiques, Tec§Doc. Paris, 1999
- Barbier P., Petits remèdes retrouvés, Résurgence. Paris, 2003
- Barnaulov OD, Denisenko PP., Antiulcerogenic action of the decoction from flowers of Filipendula ulmaria (L.)Maxim.Farmakol Toksikol. 1980 ; 43 : 700-5
- Bespalov VG, Limarenko AY, Voitenko BL., Anticarcinogenic, antitumor and immunomodulating activities of dropwort Filipendula ulmaria flower decoction, Khim farm Zh. 1992 ; 26 : 59-61
- Csedö K, Monea M, Sabau M, Esianu S., The antibiotic activity of Filipendula ulmaria, Planta Med. 1993 ; 59 (suppl) : A675
- Kudrjashov BA, Lyapina LA, Aziyeva LD., Heparin-like anticoagulant content in Filipendula ulmaria, Farmakol Toksikol. 1990 ; 53 : 39-41
- Morel JM, Traité pratique de Phytothérapie, Grancher, 2009
- Peresun’ko AP, Bespalov VG, Limarenko AI, Aleksandrov AV., Clinico-experimental study of using plant preparations from the flowers of Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim for the treatment of precancerous changes abd prevention of uterine cervical cancer, Vopr Onkol. 1993 ; 39 : 291-5
- Voisin H., Matière médicale du praticien homéopathe, Maloine. Paris, Maloine, 197
This article is for information only. It is not intended to replace medical consultation.
 Qualifies leaves composed of an odd number of sepals.
 Inflorescence composed of flower clusters.
 Sugar molecules linked to a phenol function (cyclic molecule with 6 atoms of carbon, only present in plants).
 Macrophages are cells which infiltrate tissues which come from the differentiation of blood leucocytes, monocytes.