Agrimony is dark green with numerous soft hairs that aid in its seedpods sticking to any person or dog passing by, the reason it’s not in my garden, though I’m pondering a spot for it somewhere on our farm. The slender spikes of yellow flowers rising from this plant give it the English name, ‘Church Steeples’. Agrimony has a lengthy bloom time and the spicy scent of the flowers are compared to apricots. The leaves, when dried, retain much of their fragrance and have been a much sought after addition to tea.
Herbalists over the centuries have extolled the virtues of agrimony. Its name comes from the Greek ‘Argemone’ for healing to the eyes. From ancient times, agrimony has been used for many ailments and injuries, particularly skin eruptions and wounds. It’s the origin of the French herbal lotion eau de arquebasade, a treatment for gunshot wounds. Agrimony has an age-old reputation as a popular medicinal herb among country folk. Easy to grow or gather, the plant was heavily relied upon and employed as a spring tonic, blood purifier, gargle, a remedy for coughs, fevers, sores, jaundice…It also produces green, gold, and yellow dyes, and is used in tanning leather. In A Modern Herbal, Ms. Grieve relates, “In the time of Chaucer, when we find its name appearing in the form of Egrimoyne, it was used with Mugwort and vinegar for ‘a bad back’ and ‘alle woundes’: and one of these old writers recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages.”
I have to stop right here and comment. Pounded frogs and human blood mixed with Agrimony for all internal hemorrhages. Hmmm…it wonders me, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say, whose blood we’re to mix in. Probably someone else’s. And what would the proportions of pounded frog be to the herb and blood? No exact measurements are given. Just a spoonful of this and a cup of that. I suspect it would take more than a spoonful of sugar to help that medicine go down.
The herbalist Gerard declares: “A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers.” Got that? It treats naughty livers.
Beyond its healing attributes, agrimony is reputed to have magical properties. In The Scots Herbal, Tess Darwin says the Gaelic name, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. She relates the account of an unfortunate Scotsman, Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft in 1716 after he admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people. Apparently, a common affliction. Ferguson maintained a voice he heard while sleeping instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Elf-shot are persons or animals who’ve fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Especially when the treatment gets you landed on trial for witchcraft. The poor man was guided by the Holy Trinity, what more did they want?
Also from A Modern Herbal: “The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in 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.’” (That’s darn useful to know.)
“The herb that can’t be got is the one that heals.” ~ Irish Saying
***An excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available in Print and kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/Plants-Medieval-Garden-British-Isles-ebook/dp/B00IOGHYVU
An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them.
Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.