Health Benefits of Woodruff

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Woodruff Quick Facts
Name: Woodruff
Scientific Name: Galium odoratum
Origin Native to much of Europe from Spain and Ireland to Russia, as well as Western Siberia, Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus, China and Japan
Shapes 2-4 mm diameter
Woodruff is also called Sweet woodruff, Sweetscented bedstraw, Bedstraw, Wild baby’s breath, Master of the wood, Kiss-me-quick, Rockweed, Mugwet, Sweet grass and Hay plant. This perennial plant belongs to Rubiaceae family and has creeping rhizome that grows in shady European deciduous forests. It is an aromatic and medicinal plant since the Middle Age basically in European countries. The plant grows from 8 to 12 inches tall with fragrant, lance shaped and dark green leaves that form in the whorls of 6 to 8 along square stems. Flowers are small, fragrant, four petaled that appears in loose cymes in spring. The plant exudes a strong odor of freshly mown hay when the foliage is crushed or cut. The intensity of aroma of foliage increases when dried. Dried leaves are used popularly in sachets or potpourris. Traditionally, it is used for treating digestive and bladder disorders, nervousness and hepatitis. In Europe, the plant is used for preparation of flavored beverages such as Maiwein or Maitrank. Leaves are also used to flavor teas and cold fruit drinks. Also it is commercially used in perfumes.

The plant is grown on its own in the forests and also on the hedge banks in shaded areas. Fresh leaves are used as a dressing for cuts and wounds and the decoction made from leaves serves as cordial and stomach digestive. The herbal tea made from leaves is used for treating liver ailments.

Plant description

Woodruff is a prostrate or scrambling annual plant with 2 m long stems when through other vegetation rather branched, stout and densely clothed in retrorse, hooked and scabrid hairs on sharply acute angles. Leaves and stipules form in whorls of 5 to 8 sessile about 10-60 x 2-8 mm and usually narrow-elliptic or linear-oblanceolate which is often spathulate or obovate on exposed lateral shoots. Flowers are in axillary divaricating cymes and whorl of bracts is at the base of pedicles leaflike and scabrid. Corolla is white or whitish and about 1 to 2 mm. Mericarps are globose or subglobose about 2.5-4 mm in diameter which is densely furnished with hooked bristles. Fruits are about 2-4 mm in diameter which is covered by small bristles.


Flowers are small (usually inconspicuous) which is about 1 mm long and 1-2 mm across. They are white having four petals which are fused together at the base. Flowers form in small spreading clusters usually 1 to 9 flowers on short side branches. It has four tiny yellow stamens and occurs on late spring to summer.


Leaves are stalkless produced in groups of 6 to 9 at each of stem joints and also whorled. Cluster leaves are lanced shaped, narrow, about 10-80 mm long and 2-10 mm wide having pointed tips and tiny backward pointing prickles along their margins. The upper and lower leaf surface is covered loosely with tiny hooked hairs. Leaves are dark green which grows around stalk in successive whorls with 6 to 8 leaves in each whorl. Lower leaves are small, white, oblong-obovate and four petaled. It usually blooms in loose branching cymes from May to June. The flowers are then followed by leathery and bristly fruit.


Woodruff is commonly found in hedgerows and field margins. It could be found near crops, waste areas, orchards, pastures, disturbed areas, gardens and open woodlands. It is found in temperate environment as well as sub-tropical areas. The plant is native to Western Asia and Europe making its way throughout Australia, U.S., Canada, Central America, Mexico and some countries in North Africa and South America.

Traditional uses

  • During Middle Ages, it is applied externally to cuts and wounds and also taken internally for treating digestive and liver ailments.
  • Use the infusion to treat insomnia, varicose veins, nervous tension, hepatitis, biliary obstruction and jaundice.
  • The plant is used as a remedy for uterus inflammation.
  • It is also helpful for varicose veins.
  • It is effective for treating cardiac problems.
  • An infusion is useful for nervous problems, sleeping disorders, jaundice and liver problems.
  • The tea provides relief from stomach pain, regulates heart activity, improves appetite and is diuretic.
  • It is beneficial for cold and cough.
  • It also alleviates intestinal disorders and abdominal cramps.
  • It treats depression, nervousness and sleeplessness.

Culinary uses

  • Leaves are cooked or consumed raw.
  • Use the leaves as a flavoring for cooling drinks.
  • Add the leaves to fruit salads.
  • Make a tea from green dried leaves and flowers.
  • Use it as a garnish.
  • In Germany, it is used as syrup for beer, sweet juice punch, soft drink, jelly jam, brandy, herbal tea and ice cream.
  • Stems and leaves are used as leaf vegetable.
  • Steep the dried stems or leaves and use it as a tea.
  • Use the flowers as a garnish.
  • Mix the powder with fruit or honey.
  • Use the crushed woodruff as an ingredient in potpourri and sachets.


  • When used in high doses, it causes headache. Very high doses cause vertigo, central paralysis, somnolence and apnoea to people in coma.
  • Avoid by pregnant women.
  • The doses when is exceed causes dizziness and symptoms of poisoning.
  • Excess use might result in internal bleeding.

Other facts

  • In many countries, dried woodruff plants are used in pot-pourri.
  • It is also used as a moth repellant.
  • The hardy perennial plants are grown as ornamental ground cover.
  • It is used to stuff mattresses.
  • Infusion made from leaves is used in face wash.
  • The plant tolerates extremely cold temperature down to -25 °C.
  • Anglo-Saxon people use this plant to make red dye.






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