Agrimony: The Gunshot Herb

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Agrimony has quite a few names including liverwort and cockleburr. The cockleburr was given to it because its seeds tend to stick to the clothes of passersby. It is a member of the rose family that originates in Africa and has been used as medicine for centuries. Its Latin name is Agrimonia eupatoria. The first part of its name comes from argemone, a Greek classification for plants that they considered curatives for the eyes. The latter part comes from the name Mithridates Eupator, the king of Pontus. In order to develop an immunity to poisons, he is said to have taken sub-lethal doses of herbal and animal toxins.

Dioscorides wrote about agrimony, recommending it as a treatment for liver problems. Roman naturalist Pliny also wrote about agrimony, calling it princely. The Romans used it to treat kidney and liver problems.

Soldiers in Medieval times used agrimony for treating battlefield wounds. Other ailments for which it was used during this era include back ailments and internal hemorrhages. The Saxons called it garclive and used it to treat wounds as well, in addition to warts and snakebites. In the 15th century, the French used agrimony as a part of a concoction called arquebusade herbal water, which was used to treat gunshot wounds. In the 17th century, Nicholas Culpeper recommended it as a treatment for gout.

In North America, various Native American tribes used agrimony for its medicinal benefits as well. They used it as a febrifuge as well as for treating wounds and intestinal worms. The Cherokee peoples used it to build the blood; the Iroquois for diarrhea and vomiting.

Today, most of the world’s agrimony comes from Spain but France and Italy are major exporters as well.

Agrimony flavor profile

Agrimony’s fragrance is often likened to apricots or citrus fruit but its flavor is bitter and astringent. Because of this, you may want to sweeten it for making tea.

Health benefits of agrimony

The strong reputation that agrimony has as a medicinal herb is due to the various valuable compounds it contains; they include:

  • Palmitic acid: Some studies on rats have shown palmitic acid to have antioxidant properties along with being beneficial for preventing atherosclerosis.
  • Tannins: Many of agrimony’s best-known health benefits are due to its tannin content. Tannins are the water-soluble polyphenols also found in wine and which have numerous health benefits.
  • Thiamine: Also known as vitamin B1, thiamine is an important nutrient and agrimony is a good source of it.

Because of these and other compounds, agrimony can be used to treat:

  • Diarrhea: Agrimony’s anti-inflammatory benefits make it useful for treating a variety of gastrointestinal ailments that include diarrhea.
  • Menstrual problems: One of agrimony’s benefits is that it is an effective coagulant, which means that it can help to reduce heavy periods and the associated inflammation.
  • Diabetes: There is some evidence that agrimony helps to manage glucose and insulin processes in the body.
  • Respiratory ailments: Agrimony is the main ingredient in several remedies for coughs and sore throats.

Common uses

The agrimony herb is mostly used to make tea, especially when its medicinal benefits are desired. In order to mask its astringency, it is often combined with honey or flower petals that act as sweeteners. You can make a wine with agrimony similar to homemade fruit wines. Simply bottle a sweetened agrimony tea with some brewer’s yeast and leave it to ferment.

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