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Woodruff, Sweet

Scientific Name(s): Galium odoratum (L.) Scop.
Common Name(s): Master of the wood, Sweet woodruff, Waldmeister, Woodruff, Woodward

Clinical Overview

Use

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 plant is also known as Asperula odorata L.

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.Chevallier 1996, Duke 2003, Khan 2009, USDA 2006

History

Sweet woodruff has been used as a sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, and sweat inducer.Chevallier 1996, Duke 2003, Khan 2009 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.Chevallier 1996, Khan 2009 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.Duke 2003 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.Duke 2003

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.Duke 2003, Khan 2009

The coumarin and flavonoid components are responsible for its use in treating varicose veins and phlebitis.Chevallier 1996 The plant is also purported to have antibacterial activity.Duke 2003

Modern herbalists have used the herb as a laxative and an antiarthritic.Dobelis 1986

Chemistry

Sweet woodruff contains coumarin (0.6%)Chevallier 1996 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.Woerner 1991

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.Chevallier 1996, Duke 2003, Khan 2009, Sticher 1971

Uses and Pharmacology

Asperuloside and components in the leaves of the plant are reported to have antiphlogistic or anti-inflammatory activity.Duke 2003, Khan 2009

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.Mascolo 1987

An experiment in rats demonstrated antioxidant and wound healing properties of G. odoratum extracts when applied topically.Kahkeshani 2013

Clinical Data

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

Dosing

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.Laub 1982, Laub 1985

Pregnancy / Lactation

There is some concern over the toxic potential of the plant's coumarin content;Dobelis 1986 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.

Adverse events are unlikely at normal dietary intake of the plant or its extracts. Excessive doses may lead to internal bleeding, and hepatotoxicity may occur with long term exposure.Duke 2003, Khan 2009

Toxicology

Some concern has been raised over the toxic potential of the coumarin content of the plant; reports of clotting anomalies, growth inhibition, hepatotoxicity and testicular atrophy in animals exist.Duke 2003 Average coumarin content found in dry weight of the plant is 1.06%.Laub 1985

References

Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing Inc.; 1996.
Dobelis, IN, ed. Magic and Medicine of Plants. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association Inc.; 1986.
Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2003.
Galium odoratum. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 21 December 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Kahkeshani N, Farahanikia B, Mahdaviani P, et al. Antioxidant and burn healing potential of Galium odoratum extracts. Res Pharm Sci. 2013;8(3):197-203.24019829
Khan IA, Abourashed EA. Leung's encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs, and cosmetics. 3rd Ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley 2009.
Laub E, Olszowski W. Content of coumarin in woodruff and its TLC determination. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1982;175:179-181.
Laub E, Olszowski W, Woller R. Woodruff and spiced wine. Pharmaceutical and food chemistry. Dtsch Apoth Ztg. 1985;125:848-850.
Mascolo N, et al. Phytother Res. 1987;1:28.
Sticher O. Isolation of monotropein from Asperula odorata L. (Rubiaceae) [in German]. Pharm Acta Helv. 1971;46:121-128.5142662
Woerner M, Schreier P. The composition of woodruff volatiles (Galium odoratum). Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1991;193:317-320.

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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