The healing power of sweet woodruff

Sweet woodruff occurs in the forests of the region stretching from Siberia, Northern Iran to North Africa to Western Europe. It also occurs in the wild in the Netherlands, albeit sporadically. It is a nice, hardy border plant in the garden and requires little maintenance. It is an ideal ground cover. It does well in the shade. Sweet woodruff is used as a medicine in phytotherapy. It promotes sleep, digestion and has a relaxing effect on the blood vessels. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.


  • Naming
  • Lady’s bedstraw in history
  • Sweet woodruff as a fragrant herb
  • Active ingredients sweet woodruff
  • Woodruff, good for the nerves
  • Sweet woodruff for digestion
  • Lady’s bedstraw for the kidneys
  • Other medicinal work
  • Dose and safety


In Latin this medicinal plant is called Galium odoratum . A Latin synonym is Asperila odorata . In Dutch we know some other names besides sweet woodruff: Liverwort, Kidneywort, Meikruid, Meyerkruid, Maiden’s cushion, Herbcushion, Onder-vrouwen, cradle stream Roughkruid, Sterleverkruid, Walmeester, Wegstro, Wiegstro, Donka, Toenka and Mottenkruid. The name odoratum comes from ‘odor’ which means smell. It refers to the fact that it is a fragrant plant. Galium comes from ‘gale’ which means milk in Latin. This name was probably given because the namesake thought that sweet woodruff was a good herb to curdle milk for the purpose of making cheese. However, that is not the case. Galium aparine or cleaver is better suited for this.

Lady’s bedstraw in history

The wonderfully scented woodruff is said to keep demons and the devil at bay. It is a plant that was once used to ward off magic. The scent also works to repel insects, give linens and storage space a pleasant scent and to attract young men. Later, sweet woodruff was used in folk medicine as a remedy for depression, dropsy and liver disorders such as jaundice. It was made into a tea that was mixed with the leaves of thyme, wild strawberry and blackberry plants. In the past, the fragrant woodruff was used in a baby bed. This way the baby could sleep better. In addition, scented sachets were made from it. More than a hundred years ago, these scented sachets were still hung in linen cupboards. That still happens, but more often the scented sachets contain lavender.

Sweet woodruff as a fragrant herb

Sweet woodruff is mainly used in Germany to season certain types of beer and spirits. It is also found in jellies and some jams. But it is a fact that you should not take too much of this medicinal herb. It contains coumarins and if you ingest too much, it can lead to headache, dizziness and nausea with vomiting.

Active ingredients sweet woodruff

The flowering tops of this medicinal herb are used; during flowering these are most fragrant and contain the highest percentage of coumarins. The buds contain coumarin glycosides, bitter iridoid or asperuloside, tannins and mineral salts.

Woodruff, good for the nerves

Sweet woodruff is soothing and promotes sleep. It strengthens the nerves. This was already known in ancient times because it was prescribed for depression. Nowadays it is used in phytotherapy for these medicinal effects for the following indications:

  • Insomnia of children and the elderly,
  • Weak nerves or neurasthenia,
  • Melancholy.

Sweet woodruff for digestion

Woodruff is good for digestion. It has a relaxing and digestive effect. The digestive effects are somewhat similar to those of Angelica. Sweet woodruff is also a stimulant for the bile and liver. This also contributes to better digestion. In phytotherapy, sweet woodruff is used for its medicinal properties in:

  • Indigestion,
  • Impaired digestion due to liver deficiency,
  • Intestinal and stomach cramps.

Lady’s bedstraw for the kidneys

Herbalists have known since ancient times that sweet woodruff stimulates the kidneys. It is a kidney tonic and ensures that the kidneys can process more waste products by removing them from the body in urine form. The diuretic effect is mainly used in phytotherapy for:

  • Edema or dropsy,
  • Oliguria or low urine output,
  • To prevent kidney stones.

Other medicinal work

Sweet woodruff has a decongestant effect, not only for the stomach but also for the uterus and blood vessels. The drug dicumarol does the same thing but affects blood clotting; woodruff doesn’t do that; This natural medicine has fewer side effects than the synthesized medicine that is based on coumarins, the active substances in

Flowering sweet woodruff / Source: Anne Burgess, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.0)

ievewoodruff. It is used for:

  • Cramps in the peripheral blood vessels,
  • Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation.

Dose and safety

  • 25 drops of mother tincture three times per day,
  • Two teaspoons of the dried herb in one cup of hot water per day.
  • Three cups of an infusion of two tablespoons of dried herb, boiled for three to five minutes.
  • Coumarins interact with medications that thin the blood such as aspirin, warfarin, ticlopidine, clopidogrel, dipyridamole, Ibuprofen and heparin. If you use one of these products, only take galium odoratum in consultation with your doctor.
  • Using too much sweet woodruff leads to headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.