Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) has been much forgotten both as medicinal remedy and edible food in Europe. Abundantly growing around rivers, damp meadows and waste grounds, marsh woundwort belongs to Labiatae or Lamiaceae mint family characterized by square stem, lanceolate leaves and pinkish-purple flowers that are 2 lobed and arranged terminally. Rubbing leaves will produce quiet unpleasant odor that is quiet difficult to compare which I tried myself.
The root of Stachys palustris is edible, fleshy, and long and bears asparagus resemblance. In the Middle Ages up to 18th century the root of Stachys palustris was usually collected in the winter or early spring to be eaten raw or dried into a powder and added to soup or used for bread making.
Today Stachys palustris root has found a new role in the kitchen, being either fried or pickled for a short period of time in oil (apparently it can be bitter if left for longer), served with other vegetables, it has a pleasant nutty aroma (according to many sources). I must admit I have never tried it myself but I am willing to have a go, hopefully in the future J
Apparently the root contains oligosaccharides (stachyos, α-galactosides) which are believed to have beneficial “prebiotic “effects by stimulating gut flora bifidobacteria but it has not been confirmed yet. Marsh woundwort can be also pickled and I have found Polish recipe which probably have been taken from Chinese recipes, for this you will need:
From medicinal perspective marsh woundwort has been traditionally used for healing wounds that were infected or set too deep to regenerate, due to its antiseptic and antispasmodic action woundwort was also applied for gout, cramps and pain in the joints and vertigo.
A famous herbalist known as Gerard named woundwort All-heal and Clown’s woundwort as he witness himself how fast wounds recovered after using fresh woundwort poultice to his surprise. More information was given about medicinal aspects of woundwort in the 17th century by Nicholas Culpeper who wrote “It is under the dominion of the planet Saturn. It is singularly effectual in all fresh and green… and is very available for in staunching of blood, to dry up the fluxes of humours in old fretting ulcers, cancers, &c. that hinder the healing of them. A syrup made of the juice of it is inferior to none for inward wounds, ruptures of veins, bloody flux, vessels broken, spitting, pissing, or vomiting of blood: ruptures are excellently and speedily, even to administration, cured by taking now and then a little of the syrup, and applying an ointment or plaster of the same to the place; and also if the vein be swelled, or muscle cut, apply a plaister of this herb to it, and if you add a little comfrey to it, it will not do amiss”.
This has been also confirmed by a Grieve (1900) who wrote “bruised leaves when applied for to a wound will stop bleeding and heal the wound”… “And the fresh juice is made into syrup and taken internally to stop haemorrhages, dysentery etc.”
Given the traditional use, marsh woundwort would probably make a good substitute for Arnica Montana flowers which are already listed as endangered species due to substantial harvest of natural resources.
Unfortunately, there is not much research done with regards to medicinal properties of marsh woundwort. One study has suggested that certain Stachys species may have cytotoxic activities against breast carcinoma, cervix carcinoma and skin carcinoma but since then nothing was done to confirm it.
Other studies have suggested that Stachys spp may have anti-inflammatory activities by reducing neutrophil infiltration, inhibition of pain and inflammatory processes, hyperaglesia, edema and immune system modulation during inflammation possibly due to flavonoids (quercetin, acteoside), terpenoids, essential oil, or saponins. Further studies would have to be indicated to confirm this.
Personally I don’t have much experience in using marsh woundwort however given the traditional data and experience of other herbalist who swear by it, this plant has definite potential for future use as medicine.
If you would like to make medicinal salve from marsh woundwort please click here
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