Sweet Woodruff Herb (Galium odoratum)
The Galium odoratum is one of the most common herbs in the world. It grows naturally in many parts of Europe, Asia and North America.
It was introduced into Australia from New Zealand in 1881. Today it is grown commercially all over the world. It’s name comes from its resemblance to woodruff herb or woodrose herb, which are both members of the mint family (Lamiaceae). They have similar leaves with a distinctive scent.
Galium odoratum is native to the Mediterranean region. It is cultivated in various climates throughout Europe, Asia and North America.
Its natural habitat includes dry sandy soils with high rainfall, such as those found along the coastlines of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
It prefers moist soil conditions, but will grow well in drier areas too. It likes full sun and partial shade.
The plant tolerates poor drainage, so keep the area around your garden free of rocks and other debris.
The Galium odoratum is not very hardy, but can tolerate some drought conditions if watered regularly. If left out in the open it may become invasive due to its fast growth rate.
It should not be planted in an area where it may become weedy. It is a host for several types of butterfly larvae, particularly the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the Chalk Hill Blue.
The species can be used as a ground cover and also in rock gardens. It is also suitable for containers.
It does not work as well as some other types of plants, such as the creeping veronica (Veronica repens). These types of plants are also sometimes referred to as “speedwells”.
Sweet woodruff herb has a great aroma that spreads into the air. It is useful for filling out flower bouquets, and can be used to make sweet-smelling wreaths.
It makes an excellent tea that helps relieve coughs. It is also useful for flavoring cakes and other sweet desserts. It is a popular choice for use in herbal wines.
The leaves have a sweet smell and can be chewed to freshen the breath. It is sometimes used as a flavoring for frosting, but it is not suitable for cakes and other baked goods that will be served with fruit, as it has a tendency to turn brown when combined with some types of fruit.
It is used in herbal medicine to alleviate chest and nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies. It has also been traditionally used to help digestion and reduce internal parasites.
However, it should not be used in large amounts by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The flowers and young leaves can be eaten as a salad green. They have a sweet taste similar to strawberries.
The plant is high in certain antioxidant compounds, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. The flowers can also be candied to make delicious sweet decorations for desserts.
It is sometimes used as a substitute for hops when making beer and other alcoholic drinks, such as mead. It is also used as a substitute for dried lavender.
A stronger variant of the species is grown specifically for use in alcoholic drinks.
Sweet woodruff herb is not well known in North America, but it is gaining in popularity. It grows very well in hard to reach areas and shady areas that are difficult to cultivate.
It has a long history of use in European herbal medicine, with evidence of its use going back to at least 200 BCE.
Today it is popular in central and southern Europe, where it grows in abundance. It is also found in parts of Russia and Turkey.
It is highly invasive in some areas, such as New Zealand, but does not spread easily in others, such as the United Kingdom.
It is not known how sweet woodruff herb spread to the United States. It first showed up in New England in the early 1800s.
It is most commonly found in deciduous forests, but it can also be found growing along riverbanks.
There are many names for this herb in different countries. The most common names include sweet woodruff, wild baby’s breath, graveyard dust, wolf’s bane and snuffbox.
The name “sweet woodruff” comes from the German word “waldruff”, which means forest dew.
The flowers of the plant are very small and white, similar to common woodruff (Galium odoratum). They grow in clusters at the tips of the branches.
The flowers begin to sprout when the plants are around 5-10 cm tall. The leaves appear afterwards.
When crushed, the plant has a strong scent somewhat similar to strawberry candy or vanilla. The scent attracts bees and other insects.
The roots of the plant are known to be especially potent in the scent.
The flowers are edible, with a mild woodruff flavor. They are mostly used to flavor cakes, desserts and puddings.
In some circles, it is considered a gourmet ingredient.
In central Europe, a sweet wine called “Waldmeister” is made from the flowers of sweet woodruff. It is also used to flavor schnapps and other alcoholic beverages.
In these circles, the flowers are sometimes used as a substitute for lavender in herbal medicine. It is used in teas to help with insomnia, anxiety and restlessness.
Externally, it can be applied to the skin to treat minor cuts and bruises.
When consumed in large amounts in the early stages of pregnancy, sweet woodruff can cause uterine contractions. If consumed when the baby is in the later stages of pregnancy, it can cause uterine hyper-stimulation, which can be dangerous for the mother and child.
It should not be used by people with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, as it can make this condition worse.
In some countries, such as Germany, the plant is considered to be very poisonous. It is thought to cause a type of photosensitization syndrome called “waldruffism”.
It is not known exactly what substance causes this condition, but it is likely the coumarin in the roots and leaves.
Signs of waldruffism include skin rashes, blisters and hives. In severe cases, the condition can lead to jaundice, swelling of the throat, brittle teeth and bleeding gums.
It can also lead to blindness.
People believe that sweet woodruff can be used as a poison to kill animals and even humans.
It is considered unsafe to consume waldruff in any type of food or drink. The German Commission E has warned against using the plant in any type of sprays, due to its toxic effects.
If eaten, the plant material should be vomited back up or have milk or vegetable oil poured into the mouth. A solution of water and salt can be used to cleanse any areas of the skin that came in contact with the plant.
If the eyes are affected by waldruff, they should be flushed with cold water or given an eyewash.
Most of the poisonous information about sweet woodruff is based on a small amount of evidence. There have been no major studies to prove that the herb is actually poisonous.
However, it is better to be safe than sorry and not consume this plant at all.
In the world of gourmet food, sweet woodruff has been described as “exotic”. Some people use it to flavor desserts and other foods.
It is a common flavoring in some regions of Europe.
A low-calorie beverage called “Waldmeisterbrause” is used in some European countries as a diet drink. It is made from the plant.
Sources & references used in this article:
Galium odoratum by ME Kraska – 1993 – Burpee
Potential antimicrobial effects of pharmacognostic drugs by TK Lim – Edible Medicinal and Non Medicinal Plants, 2014 – Springer
TALL HERBS IN YOUR GARDEN by L Balm
Select and prepare herbs for exhibit–an Oregon 4-H exhibit guide by EE Kovač-Bešović, K Durić, F Bašić, D Subašić… – Bosnian journal of …, 2003 – bjbms.org
Grow Herbs: An Inspiring Guide to Growing and Using Herbs by J Rogers – 1999 – Storey Publishing