Meadowsweet — by any other name?
Erin asks “Can Spiraea Alba) (also known as white meadowsweet) be used in the same herbal manner as Filipendula ulmaria (Queen of the Meadow/Meadowsweet)? Or are they greatly different in any distinctive herbal applications? After researching high and low, it seems as if Filipendula ulmaria is the only “meadowsweet” used in herbal applications today.
This is a great question because this is a very confusing plant! Although there are websites that say Spirea Alba has been used as a traditional medicine, I simply could not corroborate, in the over 15 books I have on herbal medicine, any medicinal use of Spiraea alba. In addition, ,I have searched the American Botanical Council database and nowhere, in its vast database, can I find anything on the use of ,Spiraea alba,. Of course there is so much literature on ,Filipendula ulmaria,, also known as ,Spirea ulmaria,, and commonly known as Queen of the Meadow, or meadowsweet as you pointed out.
There is some information on Filipendula rubra, however. According to Daniel Moerman, author of Native American Ethnobotany, Filipendula rubra was used as a heart medicine and as a love potion. It’s interesting to see that in Native American culture, as well as other cultures, the physical heart and the emotional heart are linked.
Yet another relative, Spiraea tomentosa was also referred to as meadowsweet in the King’s American Dispensatory (Felter/Lloyd). The uses here were for summer diarrhea and as a tonic in cases of dysentery and diarrhea. It was thought to improve digestion as well so extremely similar to the uses of Filipendula ulmaria. (Page 1809, Vol II).
Finally there are some other spiraeas mentioned in A Modern Herbal by M. Grieve. Here is the link:
For those who aren’t familiar with meadowsweet (,Filipendula ulmaria,), it has long been used as a digestive aid and is often blended with chamomile and peppermint for a general upper and lower GI tonic. It too, has been used in acute cases of diarrhea or dysentery very similar to the above mentioned ,Spiraea tomentosa,.
Thanks for the interesting question! Jayne Tamburello, RH(AHG), LDN, CNS