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Melilot (Melilotus officinalis)

M. arvensis.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Melilotus officinalis

The leaves contain coumarin and they release the pleasant smell of newly mown hay when they are drying[238]. The leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent[169, 172], especially in order to repel moths from clothing[13, 100, 238]. They can be put in pillows, mattresses etc[178].

Poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol. This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in excess, it prevents the blood from coagulating and so it is possible to bleed to death from very small wounds. Dicoumarol is used in rat poisons[238].

The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter[238].

  • Medicinal Use

    Melilot, used either externally or internally, can help treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids though it requires a long-term treatment for the effect to be realised[254]. Use of the plant also helps to reduce the risk of phlebitis and thrombosis[254]. Melilot contains coumarins and, as the plant dries or spoils, these become converted to dicoumarol, a powerful anticoagulant[254]. Thus the plant should be used with some caution, it should not be prescribed to patients with a history of poor blood clotting or who are taking warfarin medication[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity[21].

    The flowering plant is antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, mildly expectorant, mildly sedative and vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 238, 240]. An infusion is used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins, painful congestive menstruation, in the prevention of thrombosis, flatulence and intestinal disorders[7, 238]. Externally, it is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas, whilst a decoction is added to the bath-water[9, 238]. The flowering plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use[7].

    A distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis[7].

  • Edible Use

    Root[46, 105, 172]. Consumed as a food by the Kalmuks[183].

    Young shoots – cooked. Used like asparagus[183]. Young leaves are eaten in salads[13]. The leaves and seedpods are cooked as a vegetable[8, 55, 172]. They are used as a flavouring[46]. Only fresh leaves should be used, see the notes above on toxicity[62].

    The crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings, pastries etc[177, 183, 238]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

    Flowers – raw or cooked[172]. The flowers and seeds are used as a flavouring[2]. The flowers also give an aromatic quality to some tisanes[7].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The dried leaves can be toxic. though the fresh leaves are quite safe to use. This is possibly due to the presence of coumarin, the substance that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay, if taken internally it can prevent the blood clotting.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow spring to mid-summer in situ[87]. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather[K]. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.
Prefers a well-drained to dry neutral to alkaline soil in a sunny position[238]. Prefers a clay or a saline soil[13]. Dislikes shade. Established plants are drought tolerant[238]. The flowers are rich in pollen making this a good bee plant[4, 7, 8, 13]. If they are cut back before flowering, the plants will grow on for at least another year before dying[115]. The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like newly mown hay[245]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].
Europe to E. Asia. Naturalized in Britain.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.