How does it feel?
Agrimony is fairly mild to taste with subtle qualities of sweetness and acridity. It is astringent and toning to the mucous membranes which can quickly be detected when tasting the tea.
What can I use it for?
Agrimony has been widely documented as a remedy to treat mild diarrhoea in both adults and children. It is a gentle medicine with a potent astringent action that is commonly adopted for the treatment of diarrhoea. It can be used for dysentery or following a bout of gastritis to help normalise bowel movements.
Agrimony is also used for catarrh and inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. This may be a symptom of the common cold, sinusitis or acute bronchitis. It helps by astringing the mucous membranes throughout the respiratory tract whilst also reducing inflammation. This action may be helpful for any excess of mucous or catarrh in the respiratory tract and also in the digestive tract.
One of the most popular uses for this herb is as a gargle for inflammations of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa such as for laryngitis, pharyngitis or tonsillitis. Agrimony both relieves and treats tonsillitis and inflammation that affect the vocal cords by restoring the tone and reducing inflammation in the mucosal tissue.
It is also used topically as a compress or rinse to support the healing of wounds and ulcers. Agrimony reduces inflammation and speeds up the repair of slow-healing wounds by creating a barrier over the exposed tissue, allowing the skin cells to repair and regenerate. Its astringent properties “tighten” the skin and create a protective barrier to support healing.
Into the heart of Agrimony
Agrimony is considered to be a tissue relaxant and is neutral energetically. This means that it is neither hot nor cold. It is described by Wood as a ‘superlative remedy for tension’. It is indicated for constrictive tissue states. Astringent qualities are in fact beneficial for tension as they regulate and restore the tissue state in the mucous membranes. Agrimony also has mild bitter acridity, which also adds to its relaxant action. Acrid herbs are often used for constrictive tissue states (7). This is because bitter compounds can trigger reflexes in our autonomic nervous system (mostly relayed via the vagus nerve).
Herbs work on both the physical and the emotional level. Agrimony has a number of traditional uses for more emotional and energetic applications. It is said to be specific for those who hide their emotional pain behind a jovial facade. Wood also describes that agrimony is excellent for those who hold their breath to hide their pain. He describes that patients may have digestive issues and struggle to fulfil their breath due to a holding tension (7). This would also be fitting with the bitter action on the vagal pathway.
Dr Bach uses agrimony in one of his 38 flower remedies that were created using high diluted flower infusions and brandy to treat emotional states. He writes that agrimony ‘is the remedy for people who keep their troubles hidden under a mask of pleasure and happiness. The sad clown masking inner hurt by being the life and soul of the party is an Agrimony archetype. Friends are often the last to know that anything is wrong in the Agrimony person’s life’.
‘Sometimes Agrimony people turn to drink or drugs to help them stay ‘happy’. They tend not to like being alone: the mask slips when there is no company. They seek out friends, parties and bright lights. Only at night when they are alone with their thoughts will the mental torture they have repressed come back to haunt them’ (6).
In Dr Bach’s writings, agrimony’s positive potential is to help with acceptance of the ‘darker side of our lives and personalities, so that we can become more rounded human beings’. As a mood remedy, agrimony helps one find peace with life’s ebbs and flows (6).
Agrimony’s astringent and tonic properties have long been understood as being of great value in herbal medicine. Agrimony was well reputed among the Anglo-Saxons who called it ‘garclive’. They used it to heal wounds, snake bites and warts. In medieval times it was referenced as ‘egrimoyne’ and was commonly used with mugwort as a vinegar infusion for ‘a bad back’ and ‘alle woundes’.
Agrimony formed an important component of the famous ‘arquebusade’- translating from French to ‘shot of an arquebus’. This remedy is a herbal-infused water made from aromatic herbs. This was prepared to treat wounds inflicted by an arquebus, or hand-gun, and was mentioned by Philip de Comines, in his account of the battle of Morat in 1476. In France, eau de arquebusade is still applied for sprains and bruises.
It was at one time included in the London materia medica as a vulnerary herb- referring to its use for coughs, diarrhoea and for relaxed bowels.
Agrimony has had a great reputation for curing jaundice and other liver complaints. Gerard believed in its efficacy- writing that ‘a decoction of the leaves is good for those who have naughty livers’ and he tells us also that Pliny called it a ‘herb of princely authority’.
What practitioners say
Agrimony is a gentle tonic for all visceral organs, particularly those lined with epithelial tissue or mucosa that lines body cavities and hollow organs. It has gentle astringent, relaxant and tonic properties. It also has the ability to relax tissues where there is held tension and rigidity.
Agrimony is a tonic for all of the digestive organs from top to bottom. It has applications that start from the mouth for the treatment of oral and laryngeal inflammations right through to inflammations in the lower bowel such as mucous colitis, gastrointestinal ulcerations, haemorrhoids and diarrhoea (7, 8).
It is specific for intestinal atony to restore strength and tone. Its powerful astringent and tonic actions come into themselves with any looseness or flaccidity in the intestines which helps to improve overall digestive function.
Poor bowel health or bowel inflammation can occur for a number of different reasons. Sometimes this may be caused by poor diet; food sensitivities; chronic constipation; infection or dysbiosis -just to name a few. This inflammation or poor tone of the intestinal mucosa can also lead to nutritional deficiencies but also leaky gut which often results in multiple sensitivities and intolerances due to excess permeability. A herbalist acknowledges that in order to make headway for any of these conditions- mucosal inflammation in the bowels needs to be addressed. Agrimony is a primary herb used for healing the gut along with herbs such as calendula.
Agrimony is also used to support a number of liver diseases. It has a hepatoprotective action and protects the liver from damage. A number of studies have demonstrated that agrimony reduces markers for liver injury. It is also used to allay inflammation of the gallbladder as found in cholecystitis and cholestasis (3,4).
Agrimony is used in a number of urinary tract conditions. It is a diuretic whilst also toning the mucous membranes throughout the urinary tract. Some of the specific indications for agrimony are for urinary incontinence, cystitis, bladder atony and pyelonephritis (3, 8). It may be used in combination with other herbs to address tissue conditions, bacterial or inflammatory afflictions respectively (8).
Skin and mucosa
Agrimony has a number of different applications for skin defects and types of skin inflammation. It is used in herbal medicine to support the healing of internal and external ulcers. It may be used for the effective treatment of inflammatory conditions of the oral mucosa (8).
It may be applied in the form of compresses or added to ointments as topical therapy for different skin conditions such as chronic eczema, purulent wound and psoriasis (4).
Agrimony’s ability to support the healing of wounds is second to none. Used as a wash that is made from a strong decoction of the plant, agrimony may be applied directly to the affected area 3 times a day. Its tannin content tones the tissues and creates a protective film under which the tissues may be more effectively repaired. It has also been shown to have bactericidal action, in particular against Staphylococcus aureus for infected wounds (3).
Agrimony is sometimes used as a gentle uterine tonic due to its astringent properties. This application is common for plants in the rose family as they are often high in tannins which have a tonic effect on the mucous membranes.
Agrimony may be used to treat period pains and excessive bleeding. It is also anti-hemorrhagic. Its diuretic action additionally helps with fluid retention that is experienced before or during menstruation (7,8).
Very little research has been carried out around the effects of agrimony on human subjects such as in double blind clinical trials which are the most useful method of research for establishing an evidence base for plant medicines. However, there are a number of in vivo/ in vitro studies that focus on compounds found in agrimony which demonstrate a number of its effects. A number of in vitro and in vivo have been included below to demonstrate the mechanism of action for some of the uses of vervain that have been discussed in this monograph.
Animal studies are not condoned by herbal reality, however for the purpose of providing research from which some understanding of therapeutic actions can be confirmed, some animal studies have been included herein.
A review of therapeutic effects of agrimony
This comprehensive review of studies carried out on agrimony brings a summary of the biological activities together with mounting evidence of subcellular phytochemical mechanisms of action to demonstrate a wide range of effects. The results of a number of studies demonstrated its antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, neuro-protective, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic actions as well as wound healing activity. Additionally, agrimony displayed a number of immunoprotective effects, decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine levels while increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines.
It has been shown to moderate NO (nitric oxide), to scavenge free radicals and stimulate the expression and activity of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione. Agrimony also exerts a number of beneficial effects on the liver helping to alleviate liver injury. It also inhibits TLR-4 signalling, which is a receptor which activates both innate and adaptive immune cells.
In the intestines, extracts of agrimony have been shown to inhibit α-glucosidase and, consequently, glucose absorption. Studies also demonstrated the occurrence of selective cytostatic effects on tumour cells. The herb’s extracts inhibit blood clot formation and the intrinsic pathway which is the body’s response to internal damage.
The review remarks on the lack of clinical studies on this plant in human subjects. However, it concludes that the available research into agrimony’s therapeutic effects gives it a remarkable potential for use as a medicinal agent (3).
In a review of several recent studies carried out on the therapeutic effects of agrimony the antiviral activity of agrimony has been well documented. An ethanolic extract of Agrimonia eupatoria L. exhibited an inhibitory effect on mengovirus, also known as Columbia SK virus. The antiviral effect was also demonstrated in negative-sense RNA viruses. The agrimonia species also have been shown to possess anti-hepatitis properties. Aqueous extracts prepared from the stems and leaves of Agrimonia eupatoria L. and A. pilosa L. inhibited hepatitis surface antigen (HBsAg) secretion. The inhibitory effect of the extracts against hepatitis B virus (HBV) (DNA virus) was also measured in HepG2.2.15 cells and was found to be temperature-dependent. The study concluded that the optimal temperature for the material was heated in water to 60 °C (3). This means that an infusion or decoction may be the best application of this herb for anti-viral activities.
Agrimonia eupatoria L. has been shown to protect against liver injury due to its lipid-lowering and antioxidant activities. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 8-week study was carried out to investigate the liver protective effects of agrimony aqueous extract (AEE) on 80 subjects with elevated alanine transaminase (ALT) levels (a possible sign of liver damage from hepatitis, infection, cirrhosis, liver cancer, or other liver diseases). The subjects aged 20 years or older were all diagnosed with mildly to moderately elevated ALT levels (between 45 and 135 IU/L). Subjects were randomised into two groups to receive either AEE twice a day or two capsules of placebo for 8 weeks. 11 subjects dropped out leaving 69 subjects to access for the study (placebo = 35, AEE = 34). The AEE group showed a significant reduction in ALT and serum triglyceride (TG) at 8 weeks compared with the placebo group (ALT P = .044, TG P = .020) (4). The study shows a positive effect on ALT levels which may give light to some mechanism by which agrimony is traditionally to reduce liver injury in herbal medicine.
A review analysed the results from a number of in vitro and vivo studies carried out to investigate the mechanisms of agrimony’s wound healing actions. One study demonstrated that an ethanolic (10 %) agrimony extract ointment shortened wound healing time to 10–16 days, and its water (10 %) extract to 12 days in rats. Other studies established a photosensitizing action and the study elucidates that this may contribute to agrimony’s wound-healing effect by increasing the wound/ulcer bed sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet exposure induces cellular proliferation in the stratum corneum – this is a protective mechanism of the skin to fight further sunlight damage. UVC has been reported to induce fibronectin release, which promotes cell migration and wound contraction. These physiological processes may explain some of the mechanisms of action for agrimony wound healing properties (3, 5).
Did you know?
The name Agrimony is from ‘Argemone’, a word given by the Greeks to plants which were healing to the eyes. The name eupatoria refers to ‘Mithridates Eupator’, the last king of Pontus, the Hellenistic kingdom that emerged in northern Asia. He was a renowned concoctor of herbal remedies. The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript:
‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed,
He shal sleepyn as he were deed;
He shal never drede ne wakyn
Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’
Agrimony is a deciduous, perennial herbaceous plant with dark green, compound-pinnate leaves that are oval to elliptic-shaped, with oppositely-faced leaflets. Two or three pairs of small intercalary leaflets are found between each pair of larger leaflets. The terminal leaflet is often the largest. The leaf margins are deeply serrate or serrate-dentate. The leaves are mildly aromatic and are hairy above and below. The petioles are hairy and approximately 3-5 cm long. The stipules are present at the base of the leaf as is common with the vast majority of rose family plants. Their starch-laden rhizomes have a brown-coloured skin. These sustain the plant through its winter dormancy. The stems can reach anywhere from 30-60 cm high. They are rough to the touch and covered in glandular hairs. Agrimony has spikes of small yellow flowers with the rose signature of 5 green sepals, 5 petals, and a mass of stamens. It is these spikes that gave rise to one of its other common names, ‘churchsteeples’.
- Common agrimony
- Church steeples
- Medicinal agrimony
Agrimony should not be used during pregnancy or lactation unless advised by a medical herbalist (1).
Agrimony might have a weak blood-glucose-lowering effect, and has weak diuretic and blood pressure-lowering effects. It may therefore be recommended to avoid its use with conventional drugs that have these properties (2).
- Decoction as gargle or wash for wounds
Tincture (1:5 in 45%): Take between 5- 10ml in a little water up to 3 times a day.
Infusion: Infuse between 3-12g of dried herb in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and drink 3 times daily. Follow the same steps and instead simmer for 15- 20 minutes for a decoction for as a gargle.
Children: The average daily dose for between 1-4 years of age is between 1-2 g. Children 4-10 years of age take 2-3 g. Children 10-16 years of age to take 3-6 g (1).
Decoction: Add up to 2 heaped teaspoons of dried agrimony into approximately one cup of boiling water. Simmer for around 15-20 minutes, strain and use as a mouthwash or gargle up to 3 times a day.
Plant parts used
- Tannins (3-11%) – proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins) with a small proportion of ellagitannins, of which agrimoniin is the main constituent (0.3-0.5%)
- Flavonoids (about 0.9%) – including glycosides of quercetin, the 7-glucosides of luteolin and apigenin and 3-glycosides of kaempferol and kaempferide; as well as triterpenoids such as ursolic acid, euscapic acid and the 28-glucosyl esters of euscapic acid and tormentic acid.
- Phenolic acids; B-sitosterol
- Polysaccharides (19.5%)Minerals (7.3-7.9%) (1)
Agrimony is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly Europe and the UK where it grows in hedges, woodland margins and tall grasslands.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status this plant has been assessed across many parts of Europe. It is currently classified as ‘least concern’ although it is locally declining and is considered to be threatened in Belgium and Cyprus.
Habitat loss and over-harvesting from the wild are two of the biggest threats faced by medicinal plant species. There are an increasing number of well-known herbal medicines at risk of extinction. We must therefore ensure that we source our medicines with sustainability in mind.
The herb supplement industry is growing at a rapid rate and until recent years a vast majority of medicinal plant products in global trade was of unknown origin. There are some very real and urgent issues surrounding sustainability in the herb industry. These include environmental factors that affect the medicinal viability of herbs, the safety of the habitats that they are taken from, as well as the welfare of workers in the trade.
The botanical supply chain efforts for improved visibility (transparency and traceability) into verifiably sustainable production sites around the world is now certificated through the emergence of credible international voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). Read our article on sustainable sourcing of herbs to learn more about what to look for and questions to ask suppliers about sustainability.
Herbal Medicines are often extremely safe to take, however it is important to buy herbal medicines from a reputed supplier. Sometimes herbs bought from unreputable sources are contaminated, adulterated or substituted with incorrect plant matter.
Some important markers for quality to look for would be to look for certified organic labelling, ensuring that the correct scientific/botanical name is used and that suppliers can provide information about the source of ingredients used in the product.
A supplier should be able to tell you where the herbs have come from. There is more space for contamination and adulteration when the supply chain is unknown.
How to grow
Agrimony is easy to grow. It prefers full sunlight, but can handle part shade. It will grow in most types of average, well-drained soil, including dry and alkaline soil.
- Plant agrimony seeds directly in the garden in spring after the risk of frost has passed. Seeds can also be started off indoors a few weeks ahead of time when transplanted when daytime temperatures are warm and seedlings are about 10 cm tall. Allow at least 30 cm between each seedling.
- Watch for seeds to germinate in 10 to 24 days. Plants are generally ready for harvest 90 to 130 days after planting.
- Agrimony requires little care. Water lightly until plants are well established, however it is important to avoid overwatering. Agrimony only really requires watering when the soil is dry.
- Agrimoniae herba Agrimony Monographs. (n.d.). Available at: https://escop.com/wp-content/uploads/edd/2019/07/Agrimoniae-herba-ESCOP-2019.pdf [Accessed 21 May 2023].
- Williamson, E.M., Driver, S. and Baxter, K. (2013). Stockley’s herbal medicines interactions : a guide to the interactions of herbal medicines. London: Pharmaceutical Press.
- Paluch, Z., Biriczová, L., Pallag, G., Carvalheiro Marques, E., Vargová, N. and Kmoníčková, E. (2020). The therapeutic effects of Agrimonia eupatoria L. Physiological Research, pp.S555–S571. doi:https://doi.org/10.33549/physiolres.934641.
- Cho, Y.M., Kwon, J.E., Lee, M., Lea, Y., Jeon, D.-Y., Kim, H.J. and Kang, S.C. (2018). Agrimonia eupatoria L. (Agrimony) Extract Alters Liver Health in Subjects with Elevated Alanine Transaminase Levels: A Controlled, Randomized, and Double-Blind Trial. Journal of Medicinal Food, 21(3), pp.282–288. doi:https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2017.4054.
- Kassim Ghaima, K. (n.d.). Antibacterial and Wound Healing Activity of Some Agrimonia eupatoria Extracts. Baghdad Science Journal, [online] 10(1), p.2013. Available at: https://www.iasj.net/iasj/download/f60b2633909f0ebe [Accessed 24 May 2023].
- The Bach Centre. (n.d.). Agrimony – The Bach Centre’s guide to the Bach flower remedies. [online] Available at: https://www.bachcentre.com/en/remedies/the-38-remedies/agrimony/.
- Wood. M. 2004. The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism: Basic Organs and Systems. North Atlantic Books,U.S.
- Menzies-Trull, C. (2013). Herbal medicine keys to physiomedicalism including pharmacopoeia. Newcastle: Faculty Of Physiomedical Herbal Medicine (Fphm).