Scientific Name(S): Galiurn odoraturn (L.) Scop. also known as Asperula odorata L. Family: Rubiaceae
Common Name(S): Woodruff, sweet woodruff, master of the wood, woodward.
Sweet woodruff is a small perennial that grows to about a foot in height. It has creeping rhizomes and lance-shaped leaves. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa and now grows throughout North America. The small white flowers appear from April to June. The dried whole plant is used in traditional medicine. When cut, the plant develops a characteristic smell of fresh-cut hay.
Sweet woodruff is reported to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities but is commonly used as a fragrance and flavoring in foods.
The plant is generally recognized as safe for use in foods. There is some concern over the toxic potential of the plant's coumarin content.
Sweet woodruff has been used as a sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, and sweat inducer. In homeopathy, the plant extract is used as an antispasmodic and to treat liver impairment. The bruised leaves have been applied topically to reduce swelling and improve wound healing. Extracts and teas have been administered as expectorants. Woodruff is usually taken as a tea. The dried herb is used in sachets, and the extract is used in perfumes and other fragrances. It is a flavoring component in May wines (woodruff soaked in sweet white wine), vermouth, and some bitters and is used in food and candy flavorings.
It is widely described that woodruff contains coumarin in a glycosidic form that is freed by enzymatic action during the drying process. However, at least one study did not detect any coumarins in woodruff. The plant contains a number of minor components including asperuloside (0.05%), monotropein, tannins, a fixed oil, and a bitter principle. The root contains a red dye.
Woodruff is a common herb that is used as a fragrance and flavoring in foods. Although the plant has been used medicinally for a variety of purposes, there is only scant evidence to support these uses.
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