Agrimony (Xian He Cao)
Botanical Name: Agrimonia eupatoria, A. gryposepala. Eastern: A. pilosa
Agrimony is an ancient herb that is used to purify the blood, heal wounds, and treat urinary tract infections. During the Middle Ages it was used on the battlefields because it stopped bleeding and supported the formation of clots. In France during the 15th century it was used as an ingredient in the famous “Eau de Arquebusade” water to treat gunshot wounds (an arquebus, being a type of handgun), and this formula is still used today to treat sprains and bruises. Traditionally the herb is also used to treat gallbladder and liver disorders.
Below is an overview of Agrimony (Xian He Cao), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Agrimony (Xian He Cao).
Western Name: Agrimony
Also Known As: Common Agrimony, Church Steeples, Cockeburr, Philanthropos, Stickleburr, Liverwort
Organs/Systems: Blood, Liver, Heart, Digestion, Skin, Kidney, Bladder
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Blood Tonic, Coagulative, Diuretic, Detoxifier, Vulnerary, Mildly Astringent, Sedative, Antihistamine, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Anticancer, Antidiabetic, Cardiotonic, Antiviral, Hemostatic, Antifungal. Blood purifier, coughs, sore throat, wounds, acne, eczema, menstrual cramps, heavy menstrual bleeding, urinary tract infections (UTIs), rheumatism, snake bites, jaundice, liver complaints, kidney stones, cystitis, urinary incontinence, mild and acute diarrhea, digestive complaints, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cancer, lowers high blood pressure, lowers blood sugar levels.
Pin Yin: Xian He Cao (translates as “Crane Grass” or “Immortal Crane Herb”)
Also Known As: Tuo Li Cao
Meridians: Lung, Liver, Spleen
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Stops Bleeding: blood in the stool, nosebleed, hemoptysis, hematuria, traumatic hemorrhage, spitting blood, bleeding gums, leukal dysentery, uterine bleeding, abnormal red or white vaginal discharge. Clears Liver Qi Stagnation: irritability, suppressed emotions (similar to bupleurum). Alleiviates Diarrhea and Dysenteric Disorders: chronic diarrhea, dysentery. Supports the Lungs: colds, sore throats, coughs, influenza, shaoyang stage symptoms: intermittent chills and fever. Soothes Skin: eczema, bites, acne. Kills Parasites: tapeworms, trichomonas vaginitis.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Flowers, Stems, Leaves, Essential Oil
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Astringent, Neutral
Caution: Considered safe in normal doses. High doses can cause nausea. Agrimony might lower blood sugar. Medications used to treat diabetes to help lower your blood sugar at the same time as using agrimony may cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low.
History/Folklore: The dried flowers are used in the spring to make a tonic that purifies the blood. In France this beverage is often served at tableside as a refreshing drink. The tannins in the herb help support healthy digestion. The herbs blood purifying properties help treat jaundice and liver ailments as the herb supports flushing out toxins from the body that can over-burden the liver and kidneys.
To treat diarrhea, a cup of weak tea is recommended 6x a day until the condition clears up. A stronger tea is used as a gargle to treat sore throats and soothe coughs.
The Anglo-Saxons used the leaves of agrimony to stop bleeding and heal wounds, especially on the battlefield. And in the Middle Ages the herb was frequently used as a sleep aid. Native Americans have used the herb to treat a wide variety of skin conditions, coughs, sore throats, and diarrhea.
In Oriental medicine the herb is used to treat menstrual difficulties. In China and Nepal, it is also commonly used to treat sunstroke, headaches, sore throats, and stomach aches. In Korea, it is mainly used to treat eczema and boils. Because the herb is considered neutral in temperature it can be used to treat either hot or cold conditions.
A suppository is used in China for treating chronic diarrhea and a topical wash is used to treat trichomonas vaginitis. A cotton ball soaked in a wash of the herb can also be inserted in the vagina and left overnight.
It is considered to have a magical quality in Oriental medicine of especially being able to ease problems associated with labor (working with one’s hands, or a boss, or one’s calling or spiritual work). It is said keeping the herb around can change a person’s environment turning a dysfunctional environment into an effective place released of frustration, anger, and tensions.
The herb helps treat bowel issues and helps to tone mucous membranes. Germany’s Commission E has approved agrimony tea for controlling diarrhea and as a gargle to treat inflamed and swollen throat pain.
Agrimony helps shed excess water weight and to flush the kidneys and bladder, even helping to rid the body of kidney stones. It can be combined with corn silk to help alleviate the symptoms of cystitis and urinary incontinence. Agrimony is good for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Used topically agrimony is useful for treating rheumatism, skin eruptions from pimples, to acne, to eczema, and even scrofulous sores. It can also be used to help heal wounds, stop bleeding, and treat snake bites. Its high silica content make it very useful for healing cuts and abrasions. A poultice can be made by boiling the herb in water on low heat for 10-20 minutes, letting the mixture reduce to about a 10% water extract.
Agrimony is high in tannin content 4-21%. It is this high tannin content that contributes to the herbs many key healing properties. It also contains the constituents catechin (a water soluble polyphenol and antioxidant) and thiamin (a water soluble B vitamin) which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The palmitic acid in agrimony is one of the most common saturated fatty acids in both animals and plants. New studies indicate it may help fight skin cancer.
Studies are indicating that agrimony helps to slow down the growth of tumor cells as well as helping to induce natural cell death in tumor tissues. A study out of Bulgaria indicates that the extract made from the herbs seeds have the ability to scavenge free radicals. Of 21 plants commonly used, agrimony reported the 4th highest levels of total phenols.
The ancient Greeks used it to treat ailments of the eye. This is where the plants botanical name, Agrimony derives from: the Greek word “Argemone” meaning plant that heals eyes. The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, said the agrimony was “an herb of princely authorite.”
Agrimony is one of Bach’s Flowers original remedies. Besides treating wounds, colds, sore throats, and menstrual symptoms it is also used to soothe people who are agitated, anxious, or overly and inappropriately exuberant. The focus is on people who are smiling on the outside but suffering on the inside. These are the kinds of people who never complain and avoid arguments at all costs. The herb is excellent for treating the type of emotional tension where there is lots going on in the inside, little breathing through pain or emotional upsets, and a tendency to turn towards drugs, intoxicants, or other forms of adrenaline rushing activities to mask inner pain. Agrimony causes the release of endorphins.
Agrimony has a long history of use to ward off spells and hexes. If placed in a sachet in your home, it was said to protect against goblins, evil spirits, and poisoning. It is used to repel jinxes and block curses. Not only does the herb block curses it is said it will send the curse back to its perpetrator. It remains popular to place a few leaves in your pillowcase to help get a good night’s sleep.
In the time of the English writer Chaucer, it was called Egrimoyne and blended with mugwort and vinegar to treat a “bad back” and “alle woundes.”
Good quality has purple red stems and well shaped leaves.
The long flowering spikes are the reason the plant is sometimes commonly called church steeples.
Agrimony is used as a natural food flavoring agent.
The roots are used to make a lovely pale yellow dye if harvested in September, and if harvested later in the year the color will be darker and can be used to dye wool. The high tannin content in agrimony has also meant it has been used for tanning leather.
Sheep and goats will eat agrimony, but cattle, horses, and pigs will not touch it.
Catechin, Thiamin, Quercitrin, Tannin, Palmitic acid, Silicic acid, Ursolic acid, Flavonoids (Including Apigenin, Glycosides, Kaempferol, Quercetin) Vitamin C and K, Triterpenes (Including Alpha-amyrin, Euscapic acid), Volatile oils.
The whole plant, including the roots give off a pleasant apricot-like scent.
A gargle made from agrimony can help reduce nasal mucus accumulation helping to restore normal breathing.
Add one teaspoon of dried agrimony to one cup of boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes, strain, and enjoy!
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page.
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