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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

AvensAvens, OtherAvens, Water

aka Blessed Herb, City Avens, Clove Root, Colewort, European Avens, Goldy Star, Herb Bennet, Herba Benedicta,
Holy Herb, Star-of-the-Earth, Way Bennet, Wild Rye, Wood Avens, Yellow Avens

(Geum urbanum syn Radix caryophyllata)
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Should not be used more than 2 days at a time.

"...where the root is in the house, Satan can do nothing and flies from it, wherefore it is blessed before all other herbs,
and if a man carries the root about him, no venemous beast can harm him."
(Maude Grieve, quoting from Ortus Sanitatis written ca 1491).

CONTAINS: The principle constituent of the root is a volatile oil which is composed mainly of eugenol and a glucoside, plus Gein, geum-bitter, tannic acid, gum and resin.
Distilled with water, it yields 0.04% of thick, greenish, volatile oil.
Tannins equal 1/11th of its weight.

A common wayside perennial in Great Britain which has been used medicinally since Roman times and is closely related to Potentilla. It is abundant in woods and hedges in England, Ireland and southern Scotland. It is common in the greater part of Europe, Russia and Central Asia. The thin wiry stems are slightly branched and are 1 to 2 feet in height with a reddish-brown coloration on one side. The leaves vary considerably according to their position on the plant but the upper leaves are composed of 3 narrow leaflets. The rhizomes are 1 to 2 inches long and terminate abruptly; they are hard and rough with many light brown fibrous roots. Flowers are small (about ¾ inch across), golden-yellow, without scent and on solitary terminal stalks. The corolla is made up of 5 roundish, spreading yellow petals and a calyx which is split into 10 segments - 5 large and 5 small. Flowers are inconspicuous and bloom all summer into autumn. The pointed sepals are visible between each pair of petals. The fruits are contained in small brown burred tassels. A good choice for the front of the border.

The plant derives its common name from the Latin "avencia" (meaning is unclear). The botanical name Geum is from the Greek "geno" meaning to yield an agreeable fragrance. When freshly dug, the root has a clove-like aroma. It was called "the Blessed Herb" in earlier times and the common name "Herb Bennet" is a possible corruption of that. It was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and venomous beasts and was worn as an amulet. In Dr. Prior's Popular Names of English Plants the author considers the original name to have probably been "St. Benedict's Herb" since that name was assigned to herbs that were supposed to be antidotes of those things alluding to the saint. Hemlock is also known as Herb Bennett which may allude to a story involving St. Benedict and an attempt to poison him. In mediaeval days the trefoiled leaf and the five golden petals of the blossoms symbolized the Holy Trinity and the 5 wounds of Jesus.
Towards the end of the 13th century the plant frequently occurs as an architectural decoration in the carved leafage on the capitals of columns and in wall patterns.
Astrologically it is ruled by Jupiter. It was well known to the gypsies who called it "the kind herb".
In the past it has been known to have been adulterated with Arnica.

PROPAGATION: By seed sown in autumn or spring (self-seeds freely); it is more easily propagated by root division in spring or fall.
NEEDS: Rich, moist soil in part shade to full shade; grows best in soil which does not dry up in summer. Happy in semi-shade of other plants and ordinary soil. Plant 12 inches apart at the front of the border.
FLOWERS: June to August
HARVEST: Plants are cut as they begin flowering and are dried for infusions and liquid extracts. The roots are lifted in spring and used fresh or dried for decoctions and liquid extracts. In former times, physicians fixed the date of March 25th, to harvest the roots and that the soil must be dry. It was said that the root was the most fragrant at this time and loses much of its odor in drying, so must be dried with great care and slowly; then sliced and powdered as required. In the whole dried form it would retain its properties longer than if stored in a sliced or powdered form. When dried the rhizome is of a brownish to brownish-yellow color. Internally it is of a light purplish-brown when dried. In a crosswise cut, it shows a large pith, a narrow woody ring, and thin bark. Taste is astringent, slightly bitter and clove-like.
PART USED: Whole flowering plant and roots.
SOLVENT: Water and alcohol (which the root will tinge red).


NOTE: Worldwide, the various types of geums have been regarded as astringent, cardiotonic, digestive, diuretic, sedative, stomachic, styptic and tonic and have been used in folk remedies for ague, cachexia, cancer, catarrh, chills, constipation, debility, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, esophagosis, fever, halitosis, hematochezia, hemorrhage, hepatosis, hypochondria, hysteria, leucorrhea, malaria, onontitis, ophthalmia, sore throat, swellings, tumors, ulcers and worms.

Astringent, antiseptic, febrifuge (thought by some to be inferior to willow for this), sudorific, stomachic, aromatic, tonic; reduces inflammation, checks bleeding and discharges, lowers fever; has particular action on the gut wall; is astringent and anti-inflammatory on exposed surfaces; tonic effect on the digestive system, checks secretions of mucous membranes and contracts and hardens tissue.
Has been used in contracting blood vessels to stop hemorrhages.
Currently considered useful for diarrhea, dysenteries, leucorrhea, sore throat, ague, chills, fresh catarrh, intermittent fevers, chronic and passive hemorrhages, gastric irritation and headache.
Has been used internally for diarrhea, gastrointestinal infections, bowel disease, uterine hemorrhage and intermittent fever. Infusion of 1 oz. powdered herb steeped in 1 pint of boiling water used to help women suffering from leucorrhea; 1 cup taken usually in morning, noon and evening; also used as a douche for leucorrhea as well as vaginal and cervical inflammations and infections.
Has been used for inflammatory conditions of the lower bowel such as ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis and other causes of diarrhea and any gut wall irritation.
A decoction of the root has been used as a remedy for severe colic. Often used in decoction with sugar and milk like chocolate or coffee. Root has also been used as a base for an astringent gargle.
Has been used externally for hemorrhoids, vaginal discharge and inflammations of the mouth, gums and throat (as gargle and mouth wash).
A cordial against the "ague" was made by boiling the roots in wine. Gerard recommended a decoction made in wine against stomach ills and bites of "venomous beasts". This was also prescribed for diseases of the chest or breath and for pains and stitches in the side (fresh or dried root was used).
Chewing of the root was once recommended for bad breath as a result of poor digestion.
A compound tincture (see DOSE) was used for the onset of cold or flu and was also used as a restorative in weakness and debility.
Improves appetite and acts as a tonic during convalescence. Wine extract of the root promotes digestion in older people and has also been used for chronic bronchitis, catarrh, and for intermittant fever.
The infusion has also been used in some skin affections and was used externally as a wash to remove spots, freckles or eruptions from the face.
In the spring it was taken as a purifier and remover of obstructions of the liver.
The powdered root has been used in America and Europe as a substitute for Peruvian bark; a drachm of powder being given every two hours.
Has been used to induce sleep: a drink is prepared by pouring 1 pint of boiling water over ½ oz. of dried and sliced root; steep for 10 to 15 min, strain and sweeten with a little honey and take a wineglassful hot at night; it may also be used cold as a tonic drink.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
DRIED HERB or ROOT = 1 to 4 gram equivalent 3 times daily.
INFUSION = 1/2 oz of the powdered root or herb to 1 pint of boiling water, strained and taken cold.
DECOCTION = Same as the infusion except that it is boiled down to half of the original liquid content. -Or- 1 tsp powdered root or herb with 1 cup water; 1 cup taken daily.
FLUID EXTRACT of the PLANT = 1 drachm
FLUID EXTRACT of the ROOT = ½ to 1 drachm
ROOT TINCTURE = 10 drops, 3 times daily
POWDER = ¼ to ½ tsp 3 times daily.
SIMPLE TINCTURE = Pour 1 pint of 80 to 100 proof vodka or other liquor (wine can also be used) over 1 oz. of the bruised root. Allow to steep (mascerate) for 14 days and then filter through paper. 2 or 3 tsp of this tincture are taken in any watery drink or in a glass of wine for a dose.
COMPOUND TINCTURE = 1½ oz. avens root; 1 oz. each of bruised Angelica root and bruised Tormentil root; 2 oz. raisins, 2 pints French brandy. Macerate for 1 month in a warm place. The same ingredients can also be macerated in a quart of wine.
For DIARRHEA and SORE THROAT the infusion is taken strained and taken cold in wineglassful doses 3 to 4 times daily.
As a TONIC the usual dose of the powdered herb or root is 15 to 30 grains.

Used for treatment of livestock in cases of heart ailments, digestive ailments and weakness, vomiting and jaundice.
DOSE (for animals) = 1 oz. finely sliced root boiled for 10 minutes in 1 pint of cold water, then brewed for two hours; it is taken in quarter-pint doses, morning and night.

The roots (dry, or preferably fresh dug and washed clean) impart a clove taste to an apple tart rather than using cloves.

Roots were once used to flavor ale and to put among linens to keep them from moths and to impart a pleasant odor.
Augsburg ale
is said to owe its flavor to the addition of a small bag of Avens in each cask. The fresh root imparts a pleasant clove-like flavor to the liquor, preserves it from turning sour and adds healthful properties to it.

(Geum spp)

Geum elatum
No Image Available

STUDIES Anti-fertility activity reported in this Himalayan species. A 50% ethanolic extract has an LD50 of 375 mg/kg ip in mice. Hentriacontal, hentriacontanone, beta-sitosterol, ellagic acid, tetra-o-methyl ellagic acid and isoquercetrin were identified.

Geum triflorum [Pursh]
The roots were boiled to make a beverage (British Columbia).

Japanese Avens
Geum japonicum
[shui yang mei]

Both the root and the plant are used. The root has been applied to boils. The plant has been used as a diuretic and cooked with pork as an astringent for coughs and hemoptysis (coughing up of blood). In China and Japan a tea of the plant has been employed for these same conditions. The root and leaves have been used as a poultice or wash for skin diseases and boils.

Large Leaved Avens
Geum macrophyllum [Willd]

This differs from Yellow Avens in having a larger, less cut leaflet at the end of each leaf. It was used by the Flambeau Ojibwe as a female remedy.

Rough Avens
aka Virginia Avens, Chocolate Root, Cure-all, Throatroot
Geum virginianum

This has been used like Water Avens (G. rivale) and considered tonic, powerful astringent, styptic, febrifuge and stomachic.

White Avens
(Geum canadense)

Taller than Yellow Avens and can grow to 3½ feet. The stalks of flowers are covered with small glandular hairs. Flowers are white with petals broader at the tips than the base. Native to eastern and central Canada, Minnesota, North Dakota and south to Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Scouth Carolina in rich thickets and borders of woods. Used by the Iroquois for fever and diarrhea. The root was used by the Chippewa for female weakness.

Yellow Avens
(Geum aleppicum var. strictum)
[wu qi chao yang cao]

Native to North America, about a foot tall and covered with spreading brownish hairs. The leaves consist of many opposite leaflets of various shapes with tiny ones in between and always one large leaflet at the end of the stalk. Leaves are green and hairy on both sides, having long stalks, when at the base of the plant, and none when they near the top. Flowers are roughly 1 inch in size and deep yellow to orange in color with 5 petals and are solitary at the ends of the stems. These are followed by brown balls of hooked bristles.
The part used is the plant and is prescribed in Chinese medicine for bleedings, bugbite, convulsive disorders, fevers, nervous irritability, obstinate skin diseases, and as an anodyne for sores and wounds. Native Americans and early settlers used a weak decoction taken internally for soreness in the chest and for coughs. The Iroquois used this as well as G. canadense (White Avens), and G. rivale (Water Avens) for fever and diarrhea.

aka Avens root, Chocolate Root, Cureall, Drooping Avens, Indian Chocolate, Maiden-hair, Nodding Avens, Purple Avens, Throat Root, Throatwort, Water Flower
(Geum rivale)

CAUTION: Excessive amounts can cause unpleasant side effects.

Flourishes freely in the northern parts of Europe, Canada and Siberia, and in Britain it is more common in the northern counties and in Scotland. It is native to Labrador, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ungava Bay ONT, Manitoba to British Columbia and south to Washington, New Mexico, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Iceland, Europe and Western Asia in swamps and wet places. It is found chiefly in damp woods and in ditches and among coarse herbage fringing canals, but are most often seen along rivers and streams. It is a stouter plant than G. urbanum and with a hairy stem. It has fewer flowers, although they are larger in size. This is not a wide spreading star shaped flower as with other Geums, but a drooping flower which is compact and forms a bell-shape with the corolla of a dull purplish hue with darker veins. One writer describes them as resembling wine glasses held in a green calyx. The outer petals (sepals) are purple, the inner petals are yellowish, suffused with purple and are purple veined. The flowers nod at the end of the stems. The seeds have feathery hairs sticking out from them. In the eastern United States it is called Indian Chocolate, Cure All and Water Flower. It was used by Native Americans and by early European settlers who were already familiar with the use of Geums.

NEEDS: Flourishes in a moist situation.
HARVEST: Root is dug in spring before the stem grows up.
PART USED: The root and the above ground plant.


NOTE: Water avens has similar properties to Avens (G. urbanum), but is considered to be weaker.

Employed in the same manner as G. urbanum; root is considered tonic and has powerful astringent action which is useful in passive hemorrhage and diarrhea; also valued as a febrifuge and tonic.
Dried root was official in the USP 1820-82 as an astringent.
Has been used in the past as a popular remedy for pulmonary consumption, simple dyspepsia and diseases of the bowels relating to disorders of the stomach.
Methods of use by Native Americans and early settlers was to pound the root to powder and then make either a strong decoction, or a cold decoction. This was used by the wineglassful on an empty stomach as a preventative against flus and colds.
Has been used as a gargle and a drink for inflamed and ulcerated sore throats and cankers.
Infused in wine it has been used as a stomachic.
An infusion of the whole plant has been used to clear up respiratory congestion and to counteract nausea.
The Malacite tribe of Canada used the root for croup and for coughs.
South American native indians used this and a related species for intermittent fevers.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
COLD INFUSION = Soak powdered root in cold water for 1 day. It was usually mixed with brandy.
INFUSION = Steep 1 tsp rootstock in 1 cup water for 30 minutes; take ½ cup before going to bed or a mouthful 3 times daily; take no more than 2 cups in total consecutive doses. OR: steep 1 to 2 tsp of fresh plant material in 1 cup water and take 1 cup daily.
TINCTURE = 10 to 20 drops.

The root is considered to be the most powerful part but the whole plant is employed as well. To increase appetite, soothe stomach and dry up mucous and diarrhea in livestock: 1 tsp of shaved root twice daily in bran, or one handful of whole herb.

A decoction of the fragrant rootstock was used as a beverage in the northern United States states and Canada. The rootstock was used to flavor ale and to prevent ale from growing sour.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH