Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, Airgead luachra
Along river banks, drains and damp meadows at this time of year are to be found the frothy cream flowers of this wonderful plant. The flowers of the Meadowsweet have a sweet, heady perfume while the leaves have a more clinical aroma. Long ago, the plant was strewn on the floors of houses along with rushes to keep rooms smelling fresh. The sweet smelling flowers draw an abundance of pollinating insects however, it actually has no nectar to reward them.
The flowers and leaves have been widely used in flavouring food and drinks since earliest times as well as for folk remedies and medicinal purposes. The name Meadowsweet derives from the Anglo-Saxon medu-swete which means ‘mead sweetner’ as it was used to flavour mead, a honey liquer from medieval times. It has also been called ‘meadwort’ for this reason. The herb has also been used to flavour beer and wine while meadowsweet codial and tea are still made by some today. See here for a recipe.
The plant was used as a medicinal herb for the treatment of a number of ailments including stomach problems, diarrhoea, fevers, sore throats and pains. Meadowsweet contains a compound called salicylic acid which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Chemists in the 19th century developed a synthetic version of the compound called acetylsalicylic acid which was sold as Aspirin.