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MoonDragon's Health & Wellness
Nutrition Basics

Sweet Woodruff

(Galium Odoratum)
"For Informational Use Only"
For more detailed information contact your health care provider
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  • Woodruff Herbal Description
  • Woodruff Uses, Health Benefits & Scientific Evidence
  • Woodruff Dosage Information
  • Woodruff Safety, Cautions & Interactions
  • Woodruff Herbal amp; Related Products

  • woodruff


    Woodruff is also known as Sweet Woodruff and Galium Odoratum.

    Woodruff is a perennial plant of the family Rubiaceae that makes an excellent ground cover for shady locations. When dried, sweet woodruff exudes a very pleasant smell and is used to add fragrance to sweet dishes and liqueurs. About 850 A.D., Benedictine monks created a wine - still used to celebrate May Day - that was flavored with sweet woodruff.

    Today, we know that this herb's fresh distinctive scent is due to its coumarin glycosides. Other active components are bitter principles, tannins and acids. This plant contains coumarins, flavonoids, vitamins A, C and K, minerals iron, silica, sodium and potassium, acids, and asperulin. Sweet Woodruff has tonic, diuretic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

    The dried herb is used in a calming tea for its nerve-strengthening, antispasmodic and analgesic properties. The tea offers mild pain relief and spurs the metabolism, as well.


    A member of the madder family, this small (4 to 8 inches tall), shade-loving plant is related to coffee and henna. The fresh plant tastes slightly bitter and has no odor, but when crushed or wilted it releases a sweet scent similar to that of fresh hay.

    An easy-to-grow, rapidly spreading plant, sweet woodruff has fine, tangled, branching roots that send out low, creeping runners. It has a shiny four-sided stem, with deciduous leaves that grow in a star-shaped pattern. When it blossoms, sweet woodruff puts forth small, funnel-shaped white flowers. The leaves change color as they dry, developing an aroma variously described as reminiscent of vanilla or newly mowed hay.


    Sweet woodruff thrives in locations that get partial-to-full shade. It requires very loose, moist soil with high humus content. In the garden, sweet woodruff must have soil conditions similar to those found in the forest, so improve the soil with plenty of leaf mulch and compost. This plant should not be hoed as it grows, because that can damage the runners. Immediately pluck out any weeds that appear. Sweet woodruff requires regular watering. To protect the plant from extreme cold, be sure to cover it well from extreme cold, be sure to cover it well with leaves before winter. It grows to heights of 8 to 12 inches, depending upon conditions.

    Sweet woodruff should not be picked during its first year. In the second year, pick the entire herb in May or June, just before it blossoms. Gather the herb, which is nearly odorless until dehydrated, then hang in bunches in a shady, well-ventilated place to dry. You can also spread out the herb loosely and turn it occasionally until it dries. Store dried sweet woodruff in airtight jars.


    You can find young sweet-woodruff plants or seeds at nurseries and herb suppliers. If conditions are good, the plant multiplies quickly, forming a thick, grassy mat. It does best as a ground cover, beneath bushes or trees. Sweet woodruff's root system needs a great deal of room, so it is not a suitable plant for growing in a container.

    Sowing Outdoors

    1. Sweet woodruff seeds require frost to germinate. Hoe a shallow layer of soil in the fall and scatter the seeds. Use only seeds that are fresh and mature. Cover them lightly with soil and rotted leaves.

    2. In March, remove the covering of leaves and replace it with fir branches.

    3. In mid-May, remove the branches. Pull up any weeds that are sprouting, and be sure the soil remains loose. Sweet woodruff is quite sensitive to dryness, so it must always be kept moist. Do not harvest the herb the first year, because that will weaken the plant's growth.


    Woodruff is propagated using its low, creeping root runners. In the spring, dig up runners that are about 3 inches long and have undamaged roots. Replant them in a shady location and water them fairly well the first several days to help keep the runners moist. However, be sure not to overwater them.


    Woodruff is native to most of Europe and the Middle East. It is found predominantly in shady, deciduous forests, where it grows in dense clusters. Woodruff is also cultivated in gardens as a medicinal plant.

    Sweet Woodruff is a perennial with square stems and small white funnel-shaped flowers that bloom in loose clusters. As it dries, the sweet hay scent of the flower increases. It grows abundantly in Germany and is used in make May wine which the Germans drink as a spring tonic and as a salute to the new season. Sweet Woodruff gives the milk of cows a fragrant smell, but when it becomes wet it rots and becomes moldy, producing an anticoagulant which can cause hemorrhaging in cattle.

    woodruff plants and flowers


    Only the above-ground portion of the plant is used in natural medicine. It should be harvested just before or just as it starts to flower. The herb is used mainly as a mild tranquilizer for treating nervousness and sleep disorders, such as insomnia.

    Like Lavender, Sweet Woodruff can be used as an insect repellent, to help keep moths and other pests away from woolens and linens. Fill small cotton bags with dried woodruff and lavender flowers and place several of them in each closet.

    While sweet woodruff was once sewn into cotton bags and hung in closets to prevent clothes from becoming musty, it also was a popular diuretic with liver-stimulating properties, according to medieval herb books. Today, a tonic made with woodruff and white wine is thought to strengthen and inviborate the heart and gladden the spirits.

    Woodruff has been used both internally as a tea and topically as a compress for varicose veins and thrombophlebitis and helps to improve circulation. The fresh leaves are used as a dressing for wounds and cuts.

    An anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, it soothes intestinal discomfort, especially abdominal cramps, as well as headaches and migraines. It has also been valued as a treatment for liver disease and kidney stones and as a strengthener for the heart. A decoction of the leaves is used as a digestive aid, laxative, and for treating liver disorders. Make sweet woodruff tea by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of crushed, dried herb. Steep for 10 minutes and strain. The herb can also be used to impart a distinct aroma to fruit juices, punches, jellies and potpourris.

    Curative Tea

    Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 rounded teaspoon of dried Sweet Woodruff. Steep for 5 minutes and strain. Drink 2 to 3 cups a day, preferably unsweetened.

    Cool Tonic

    Steep 2 teaspoons of dried Woodruff in 1 cup of cold water for 8 hours; strain. Drink 1 to 2 cups every day to strengthen the heart.

    Wine Punch

    Add no more than 1/4 teaspoon of fresh, slightly wilted Woodruff to 1 quart of dry, slightly sweet white wine. The herb is more aromatic when slightly wilted. Let the punch sit for a few hours then strain and serve chilled.

    Healing Powder

    To combat insomnia, take 1/2 teaspoon powdered Woodruff mixed with honey or fruit puree 30 minutes before bedtime.

    Soothing Compress

    Grind the fresh herb with a mortar and pestle. Spread it on a cloth, fold the cloth up and apply it to the forehead. Caution: Do not let the plant pulp touch the skin!

    Potpourri & Sachets

    To encourage sleep, make a woodruff pillow. To add a fresh scent to a room, display a bowl of the dried herbs. Or, sweeten a closet with an herb sack.


    Sweet woodruff comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products. For best results, read and follow product label directions.

    Adults (18 years and older): There is no proven safe or effective dose of sweet woodruff. Nonetheless, a tea of sweet woodruff made by pouring 3 cups of boiled water over herb (1 ounce of dry herb or 1/2 ounce of fresh herb) and letting the tea steep for 10 minutes has been used. Tinctures of sweet woodruff made by using 8 ounces of dried herb mixed with 1/2 cup of ethyl alcohol and 4 cups of water have also been taken. Vodka, brandy or other commercially prepared alcoholic solution can be used as a liquid extract. A general tincture can be made by adding 100 proof (50 percent alcohol: 50 percent water) to the dried herb. No additional water is needed to dilute the solution.

    You should read product labels carefully, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider.


    Sweet Woodruff is generally regarded as safe. However, if you are on anticoagulants or have serious liver or kidney disease, it is best to seek the advice of your health care provider before using sweet woodruff for the treatment of your condition.

    Safety in young children and pregnant or nursing women is not known. Do not use it if you are pregnant or taking conventional medication for circulatory problems.

    In large doses, the herb may cause liver damage and may cause internal bleeding. Use only the advised dosages.


  • Woodruff Herbal Products


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    Mountain Rose Herbs: Sweet Woodruff (Galium Odoratum), Certified Organic Bulk Herbs & Spices


    HerbsPro: Almased Wellness Herbal Blend Tea, 3.5 oz. Made from selected herbs including Whitethorn, Elder blossom, Marjoram, Woodruff and Celery. Add one to two teaspoons of tea leaves to one large cup, pour in boiling water, and let steep for ten to twenty minutes. Strain and enjoy. Also good as iced tea.


    Amazon: Sweet Woodruff Herbal Supplement Products
    Amazon: Sweet Woodruff Herbal Gourmet Food Products
    Amazon: Sweet Woodruff Herbal Products

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