Water Avens is native to northern Europe, including the UK, Siberia and North America. It’s a member of the rose family of plants and is also known as Indian Chocolate in the States as the Native Americans used to make a chocolate type drink out of it, which was adopted by colonists as a substitute for chocolate. They also used the powdered root to treat malaria and the colonists also adopted this use, mixing it with either water or brandy. The roots were also used to cure a sore throat, giving rise to another of its names, Throat Root. This was the Physicians of Myddfai’s remedy for a sore throat:
“For hoarseness. Take the water avens, and St. John's wort, boil in pure milk, mixing butter therewith when boiling. Boil a portion thereof briskly every morning and drink.”
You can make a cold infusion of this by soaking the powdered root in cold water for 24 hours, and drinking ½ a cupful. For a tisane, take 1 tsp of the chopped root and pour a cup of boiling water over it. Let it steep for 30 minutes and take half a cup at night, or a tablespoon 3 times a day. An infusion of the whole plant can be made by chopping it and pouring boiling water over it, and then allowing it to steep for 30 minutes. This is said to be good for respiratory complaints and to stop feelings of nausea. However you should not take more than ½ a cupful at a time, as it may have some bad side effects.
In the past water avens was used to treat diarrhoea, and this probably worked as it has tannins which have astringent properties. It was also used during fevers and given for intestinal problems.
The physicians of Myddfai used it in remedies for patients recovering from the worst effects of pneumonia,
“Afterwards let a medicine be prepared, by digesting the following herbs in wheat ale or red wine: madder, sharp dock, anise, agrimony, daisy, round birthwort, meadow sweet, yellow goat's beard, heath, water avens, woodruff, crake berry, the corn cockle, caraway, and such other herbs as will seem good to the physician. Thus is the blessed confection prepared.”
They also used it to cure profuse menstruation when it was used with the herb “stinking goose foot”; the physicians did not use a decaying goose’s foot. This was their remedy:
“A woman who is subject to profuse menstruation, should take the reddish bastard balm, small burdock, orpine, stinking goose foot, pimpernel, water avens, with the ashes of a hart's horns, that has been killed with his antlers on, boiling them, as well as possible in red wine, straining the liquor carefully, and drinking it daily, till it is finished, abstaining (the while) from stimulating food. Being restrained by the above means, the blood will be habitually diverted to the thighs and ankles.”
|Water avens and Seeds|
The seeds of the plant are like burrs and stick on the fur or wool of passing animals, and are thus dispersed. They prefer to live in moist places, and inhabit woodland, ditches and canal banks. The avens and water avens have much the same properties, although in 2002 a new compound was found in the water avens. The Latin name Geum means giving off a fragrance and this is thought to refer to the smell of the freshly dug up root which is like cloves. Geum urbanum is the avens, and there are other varieties too. Water avens has been found to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties in vitro, but more research is needed into its properties. It also contains Eugenol in its volatile oil and gein or humin is one of its phenolic glycosides. Eugenol is also found in cloves, allspice and bay oil.
Water avens is said to have been used against the plague in the Middle Ages, and it is also believed to be put into casks of Augsburg Ale to give it its distinctive flavour.
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