Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Agrimonia eupatoria - Agrimony

Agrimonia eupatoria - Agrimony, also called Argemoney,  (Greek - argemos;  German - Odermenning), Liverwart, Cocklebur, Sticklewort, Church Steeples, and Philanthropos.  It was also called 'garclive' by the Anglo-Saxons.

The use of Agrimony dates back to the ancient Egyptians, the name comes from the Greek word Argemone (plants healing to eyes). The word Eupatoria comes from King Mithridates Eupator of Pontus, in ancient Persia, who was said to have developed a universal antidote to poison.

Agrimonia eupatoria is a perennial member of the rose family native to Europe.  Flowering stalk reaches 2 to 4 feet from bushy, leafy growth. Leaflets are serrated, being green above and grayish beneath. The small star-shaped, yellow flowers are apricot scented. It is found growing wild at the edge of woods, the sides of fields, waste places, roadsides and along fences. Seed capsules are burrs that prove to be a nuisance by attaching themselves to pet fur and clothing.

Agrimonia eupatoria has a long history of medicinal use. The ancient Greeks used it to treat eye ailments, and it was made into brews to cure diarrhea and disorders of the gallbladder, liver, and kidneys.  Anglo-Saxons made a solution from the leaves and seeds for healing wounds. This use continued through the Middle Ages and afterward, in a preparation called eau d'arquebusade, or "musket-shot water".

In the United States and Canada, during the late 19th century, the plant was prescribed for athlete's foot, skin diseases, asthma, coughs, gynecological complaints, as a gargling solution for sore throats and as a mouthwash to remove tartar from teeth.  A poultice of the leaves can be used for migraines.  In folk medicine it was given to cattle for respiratory problems.  In spring the long black, somewhat woody root is sweet and was once sought after as a beverage tea or else added and used to stretch a supply of tea.

In folklore agrimony was used since early times in protection spells to ward off witchcraft, to build a psychic shield, to banish negative energies and spirits, to reverse evil spells and return them to the original sender. It is also used as a banishing smudge or as a wash in a ritual bath to cleanse the aura of both body and tools.  It enhances the strength of all healing spells, especially at a distance.

The leaves, stems and flowers are used for tea.  When used as a dye it is gathered in late summer to produce pale yellow. Gathered in mid-autumn or later will produce a deep yellow. Due to its high tannin content, it also finds use in dressing leather.  It was used alone or combined with hops in pillows to promote a deep sleep. The variety Agrimonia odorata was used for this because of its very fragrant aroma. Folklore holds that when placed under a person's head, agrimony will induce a deep sleep that will last until it is removed.

CAUTIONDo not use Agrimony without first talking to your practitioner or healthcare provider.  Agrimony should not be used if you are using insulin and oral medications used for the treatment of diabetes, such as aspirin, antiplatelets and anticoagulants. You should also not use it if you take any blood pressure-lowering drugs.

Taking it with other blood sugar-lowering herbal products may increase the risk of hypoglycemia – blood sugar that is too low. If agrimony is used with other herbs that may affect blood clotting, excess bleeding may occur. If agrimony is taken at the same time as other herbals that may also lower blood pressure, the risk that blood pressure may become too low may increase.

Agrimony should NOT be used where dryness of body secretions exists, since the herb is 'drying' in action (ie: constipation, dry mouth, etc) or by people with kidney or liver conditions because of high tannin content which can be associated with kidney or liver damage. 

Both oral and topical agrimony can make unprotected skin more sensitive to sunlight or artificial light in sun tanning parlors. If agrimony is taken or applied, sunscreen should be used as well.

Cases of allergic reactions such as itchy rashes have been reported in individuals who handled fresh or dried agrimony plants. Because agrimony belongs to the same family of plants as roses, individuals with allergies to roses or related plants may also be sensitive to agrimony.

Despite being easy to grow on dry soil, agrimoney will require water during dry periods or it will not go to flower.  It prefers full sun but it can also tolerate partial shade.  Almost all types of soil will support agrimony. The plant is adapted to growth on alkaline soil, but it can also tolerate slightly acidic soil.  The seeds must be sown out doors on open ground, in the early spring.  Germination of the seeds can be speeded up by storing the seeds in damp soil within the refrigerator for six weeks prior to planting.  Agrimony will propagate by self seeding, once it has become established in the soil.  Agrimony is normally free of pests and can be considered a disease free herb.  

Agrimonia eupatoria seeds
 It can also be propagated by root division. The ideal way to grow agrimony is to divide growing plants in the spring time so as to provide the time necessary for the winter buds to form within the plants. Make sure that a live stem is included, when dividing the crown of the plant. It is a good idea to space the rowing plants at least twenty five cm or ten inches apart.

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