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Sweet Woodruff

This image of sweet woodruff comes from John Gerard’s The herball written in 1633. This book is available from the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library.

Sweet Woodruff 
(Galium odoratum)

Galium odoratum is native to Europe, Northern Africa, Siberia and several regions in northern Iran (Kahkeshani et al., 2013).  It was used as a remedy for wounds and cuts during the Middle Ages (Grieve, 1984).  The flowering tops and aerial parts are traditionally used to treat circulation and venous disorders, jaundice, hemorrhoids and nervous agitation and the crushed leaves have been topically used to reduce swelling and accelerate wound healing (Gruenwald, Brendler, & Jaenicke, 2007; Zhou, Xie, & Yan, 2011). Previous studies have shown that Galium odoratum might have anti-inflammatory properties (Mascolo, Autore, Capasso, Menghini, & Fasulo, 1987). 

It has long been used in Germany to flavor May Wine (see  However, the compound (coumarin) that gives the pleasant flavor is a potent anticoagulant. 

Historical Use 

Historical information on the use of Sweet Woodruff can be found in Rembert Dodoens’s A Nievve Herbal, written in 1554 and published in English in 1578.  This plant was used to treat wounds and some would put it into wine to relieve the heart. 

These images of sweet woodruff comes from John Gerard’s The herball written in 1633.

Latest Research


Grieve, A. (1984). A Modern Herbal

Gruenwald, J., Brendler, T., & Jaenicke, C. (2007). PDR for herbal medicines: Thomson, Reuters. 

Kahkeshani, N., Farahanikia, B., Mahdaviani, P., Abdolghaffari, A., Hassanzadeh, G., Abdollahi, M., & Khanavi, M. (2013). Antioxidant and burn healing potential of Galium odoratum extracts. Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 8(3), 197-203.  

Mascolo, N., Autore, G., Capasso, F., Menghini, A., & Fasulo, M. P. (1987). Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti‐inflammatory activity. Phytotherapy Research, 1(1), 28-31.  

Zhou, J., Xie, G., & Yan, X. (2011). Encyclopedia of traditional Chinese medicines. Isolat Compound AB, 1, 455.  

Other Resources

Natural Medicines record: Sweet Woodruff (Access to UI only)