Woodruff, Sweet

Scientific Name(s): Galium odoratum (L.) Scop. The plant is also known as Asperula odorata L. Family: Rubiaceae (Madder family)

Common Name(s): Woodruff , sweet woodruff , master of the wood , woodward , waldmeister . 1 , 2

Uses

Sweet woodruff is reported to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities although the literature reveals no clinical data regarding the use of sweet woodruff for any condition. It is commonly used as a fragrance and flavoring in foods.

Dosing

Studies suggest the safety limit for preparation of spiced wine is less than 5 ppm of coumarin, which corresponds to 3 to 3.5 g of fresh woodruff per liter of beverage.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

There is some concern over the toxic potential of the plant's coumarin content; therefore, avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.

Interactions

Although coumarin content is low, monitor for any potentially clinical significant interactions in patients being treated for cardiovascular conditions with conventional medications.

Adverse Reactions

The plant is generally recognized as safe for use in foods.

Toxicology

There is some concern over the toxic potential of the plant's coumarin content; therefore, avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.

Botany

Sweet woodruff is a small perennial that grows up to 30 cm in height. It has creeping rhizomes and lance-shaped, glossy leaves that form whorls around the stems. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa and grows throughout North America. The small, star-shaped, 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. 1 , 2 , 3

The plant is also known as Asperula odorata L.

History

Sweet woodruff has been used as a sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, and sweat inducer. 1 , 2 , 3 It is a flavoring component in May wines (woodruff soaked in sweet white wine), vermouth, and some bitters and is used in food, candy flavorings, gelatins, and puddings. Sweet woodruff has been used to cure boils and heal inflammations. 1 , 3 In homeopathy, the plant is used as an antispasmodic and to treat liver impairment. The bruised leaves have been applied topically to reduce swelling and improve wound healing. 2 Extracts and teas have been administered as expectorants. Woodruff is usually administered as a tea. The dried herb is used in sachets, and the extract is used in perfumes and other fragrances. 2

In traditional medicine it has been used to cure restlessness, insomnia, stomachache, migraine, neuralgia, and bladder stones. In European cultures, sweet woodruff is used for prophylaxis and therapy of respiratory conditions, and for gallbladder, kidney, and circulatory disorders. It also has been applied topically for venous conditions such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. 1 , 2

Modern herbalists have used the herb as a laxative and an antiarthritic. 4

Chemistry

Sweet woodruff contains coumarin (0.6%) 3 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 sweet woodruff.

Medium pressure liquid chromatography revealed 225 substances within the plant. One of these substances, previously not found in nature, may be used as an indicator of illegal use of sweet woodruff in food aromas: 7,11,15-trimethyl-2-hexadecanone. 5

The plant contains a number of minor components including asperuloside (0.05%), monotropein, tannins, iridoids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, traces of nicotinic acid, a fixed oil, and a bitter principle. The root contains a red dye of the alizarin type. 1 , 2 , 3 , 6

Uses and Pharmacology

Asperuloside and components in the leaves of the plant are reported to have antiphlogistic or anti-inflammatory activity. 2

Animal Data

When evaluated in vivo in rats, an extract of G. odoratum administered orally inhibited carrageenan-induced, rat-paw edema by 25%; this compared favorably with the 45% inhibition observed following indomethacin administration. 7

The coumarin and flavonoid components are responsible for its use in treating varicose veins and phlebitis. 3 The plant is also purported to have antibacterial activity. 2

Clinical Data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of woodruff for any condition.

Dosage

Studies suggest the safety limit for preparation of spiced wine is less than 5 ppm of coumarin, which is approximately 3 to 3.5 g of fresh woodruff per liter of beverage. 8 , 9

Pregnancy/Lactation

There is some concern over the toxic potential of the plant's coumarin content; 4 therefore, avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.

Interactions

Although coumarin content is low, monitor for any potentially clinical significant interactions in patients being treated for cardiovascular conditions with conventional medications.

Adverse Reactions

The plant is generally recognized as safe for use in foods as a flavoring.

Dietary feeding of coumarin to animals has been associated with liver damage, growth retardation, testicular atrophy, and impaired blood clotting. 1 , 2 However, it is highly unlikely that these events would occur with normal dietary intake of the plant or its extracts. Excessive doses may lead to internal bleeding.

Toxicology

Some concern has been raised over the toxic potential of the coumarin content of the plant. 2 Average coumarin content found in dry weight of the plant is 1.06%. 8

Bibliography

1. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J. Wiley & Sons Inc.; 1996.
2. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1989.
3. Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY: DK Publishing Inc.; 1996.
4. Dobelis, IN, ed. Magic and Medicine of Plants . Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association Inc.; 1986.
5. Woerner M, Schreier P. The composition of woodruff volatiles ( Galium odoratum ). Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1991;193:317-320.
6. Sticher O. Isolation of monotropein from Asperula odorata L. (Rubiaceae) [in German]. Pharm Acta Helv . 1971;46:121-128.
7. Mascolo N, et al. Phytother Res . 1987;1:28.
8. Laub E, Olszowski W, Woller R. Woodruff and spiced wine. Pharmaceutical and food chemistry. Dtsch Apoth Ztg . 1985;125:848-850.
9. Laub E, Olszowski W. Content of coumarin in woodruff and its TLC determination. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch . 1982;175:179-181.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

Hide
(web1)