Wood Avens – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Wood avens, or herb bennet, (Geum urbanum) is a woodland member of the rose family (Rosaceae).

Curiously, the plant’s Latin name urbanum means ‘city dweller’ which is where this wild flower of hedges and woods was also once found.

The generic name Geum derives from the Greek geno meaning an agreeable fragrance.

Scientific Name

Geum urbanum

Family

Rosaceae

Botanical Description

A plant with upright, hairy, branching stems bearing small, five-petalled, yellow flowers with three-lobed, greyish leaves. The round, brown seeds are spiky and the roots are aromatic and spicy.

Status

Perennial. Native

Habitat and Distribution

Shaded areas, woodlands, scrub, hedgerow, roadsides, gardens

Parts Used For Food

Leaves and roots.

Harvest Time

Spring and Autumn

Food Uses of Wood Avens

The roots and rhizomes are aromatic with the spicy scent of cloves. Add to flavour soups, broths, stews, sauces, fruit pies and stewed fruit. Combine the root with orange peel and add to wine or other mulled drinks, gin and beer. Alternatively, boil in milk to make an Indian-style chai tea. The leaves can also be infused to make a hot, mildly spicy cordial. The dried plant can be used as seasoning and the leaves added to spicy salads.

Nutritional Profile of Wood Avens

There is little data on the nutritional value of wood avens, however, the aromatic roots do contain eugenol – the main chemical constituent of clove oil, the essential oil distilled from cloves (Syzygium aromaticum).

Wood Avens Recipes

Herbal Medicine Uses of Wood Avens

The roots and rhizomes have been used in traditional herbal medicine for treating various problems: gastrointestinal disorders, such as diarrhoea, dyspepsia, constipation, indigestion, stomach upsets, and appetite loss; oral disease, such as throat and mouth infections; skin complaints, such as chilblains and haemorrhoids.

Other Uses

Traditionally, the herb’s aromatic roots were dried and used as a flea repellent or placed among clothes to deter moths.

Safety Note

Because of its high tannin content, some texts recommend that the herb is not used in large quantities. It may be safest to avoid during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.

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Identification

References

  1. Wyse Jackson, P. (2013) Ireland’s generous nature: the past and present uses of wild plants in Ireland. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.
  2. Richard Le Strange (1977) A history of herbal plants. London: Angus and Robertson.
  3. Grieve, M. (1971) A modern herbal vol 1 (a-h): the medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folk-lore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs, & trees with all their modern scientific uses. New York: Dover Publications.
  4. Eland, S. C. & Lucas, G. (2013) Plant biographies.
  5. Simkova, K. & Polesny, Z. (2015) Ethnobotanical review of wild edible plants used in the Czech Republic. Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality. 88 (1).
  6. Couplan, F. (1998) The encyclopedia of edible plants of North America. New Canaan: Keats Pub.
  7. Newall, C. A. et al. (1996) Herbal medicines: a guide for health-care professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press.