Common Names

Cocklebur, Church Steeples, Sticklewort
Botanical Name
Agrimonia eupatoria

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What is it?

The dried leaves of Agrimony, a perennial, deep-green herb covered with soft hairs and with a mild, pleasantly aromatic scent. Agrimony has burrs that have the ability to catch onto wool or clothing and it can grow to nearly a metre bearing beautiful long spikes of bright yellow flowers.




How has it been used?

The name Agrimony is derived from the Greek 'argemone' which was a word that was used to denote a herb that was good for the eyes. Agrimony has been used as a 'spring drink' to help with cleansing and in some parts of the world it is drunk with meals as a refreshing and pleasant beverage.

Pliny the Elder described Agrimony as a 'herb of sovereign power.' The English herbalist Gerard said of Agrimony 'a decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers' and the Roman physician Dioscorides said that it was 'not only a remedy for them that have bad livers but also for those who are bitten by serpents.'

Thomas Bartram says of Agrimony that it 'helps the assimilation of food and is good for indigestion, weak acid stomach and a sluggish liver.' Simon Mills says Agrimony is good for 'irritations and infections of the intestinal tract, especially in children, and for gall-bladder disease associated with gastric hyperacidity.'

Although these days it is hardly thought of as having properties that affect the nerves Agrimony was once upon a time highly regarded for its ability to help achieve a deep and restful sleep. An ancient rhyme went:
'If it (
Agrimony) be leyd under mann's head,
He shal sleepyn as he were dead;
He shal never drede ne wakyn
Til fro under his head it be takyn.'


Science on Agrimony

~ A member of the Rose family; Agrimony is rich in bitters, mucilage, phytosterols and tannins. The constituents of agrimony include acids such as palmitic acid, salicylic acid, silicic acid and stearic acid; flavonoids such as apigenin, glycosides, kaempferol, luteolin-7-glucoside, quercetin, and quercitrin; tannins (3-21%) such as agrimoniin, ellagitannin and gallotannin.

~ Studies have shown that agrimony has insulin-like effects and helped to reduce symptoms of hyperglycemia. Results demonstrated the presence of antihyperglycemic, insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity in Agrimony eupatoria (Gray AM, Flatt PR. Actions of the traditional anti-diabetic plant, Agrimony eupatoria (agrimony): effects on hyperglycaemia, cellular glucose metabolism and insulin secretion. Br J Nutr 1998;80:109-14)

~ Agrimony extracts  were shown to have antiviral activity against human herpes simplex virus, attributed to polyphenols in the herb. ( Li Y, Ooi LS, Wang H, et al. Antiviral activities of medicinal herbs traditionally used in southern mainland China. Phytother Res 2004;18(9):718-722)

~ Many skin conditions, wounds and bruises, have been anecdotally treated with agrimony. However, there have been few clinical trials in humans to support these claims A study in a group of 20 patients found agrimony infusions to be successful in treating cutaneous porphyria, a rather gnarly chronic, skin condition. A significant improvement in skin eruptions together with a decrease in urinary porphyrins was noted (Patrascu V, Chebac PI. [Favorable therapeutic results in cutaneous porphyria obtained with Agrimonia eupatoria]. Revista De Medicina Interna Neurologie Psihiatrie Neurochirurgie Dermato Venerologie Serie Dermato Venerologia 1984;29(2):153-157)

~ Anecdotally, agrimony has been used for many gastrointestinal conditions such as appendicitis, mild diarrhea, stimulation of appetite and ulcers. A clinical trial using a compound herb preparation with Agrimonia eupatoriaHipericum perforatum, Plantago major, Mentha piperita, and Matricaria chamomila was used to treat 35 patients suffering from chronic gastroduodenitis. After 25 days of therapy, 75% of patients claimed to be free from pain, 95% from dyspeptic symptoms and 76% from palpitation pains. Gastroscopy was said to indicate that previous erosion and hemorrhagic mucous changes had healed. No side effects or signs of toxicity were documented. (PETROVSKII GA, ZAPADNIUK VI, PASECHNIK IK, et al. [Cholagogue effect of Bupleurum exaltatum, Agrimonia asiatica, Leontopodium ochroleucum, and Veronica virginica.]. Farmakol Toksikol 1957;20(1):75-77)

~ The authors, titles and the 'where-and-when' published of over 20 further studies and articles on Angelica are listed in a PDF found here

Safety of Agrimony

Agrimony is a safe herb that can be used as freely and frequently as required however, because it is so high in tannins, it may be expected that taking too much for too long might cause some mild nausea or digestive upset. In other words, your body will tell you if you have taken too much for too long and no further harm will come if you just listen to it and take breaks as needed.

In theory, Agrimony could help people with diabetes because it appears to lower blood sugar levels but it may be wise to not go too long without food if using this herb in regular medicinal doses. Also, if taking medications to lower blood glucose, it would be prudent to keep a close check on your blood sugar levels when taking Agrimony. That said, if it does indeed lower them further then you might think about taking less of the drug than the herb!

There is no reason to expect that Agrimony teas or tincture will be any risk to take whilst pregnant or breastfeeding, likewise it can be used with confidence by all ages,


Personal experiences

Agrimony is marvellous to use in a tea form where even just a tsp or two of the dried herb steeped in a cup of freshly boiled water for 5-10 minutes conveys a healing action that is deep, mild and easily received.

I especially like to use Agrimony for people who have had long-standing problems in their liver or digestive health where we want to use a tonic that will be potent but extremely gentle.

How Agrimony works on the inside is just how it works on the outside and a way to immediately experience how soothing and healing a herb Agrimony can be is where one or both of the eyes are burning or itchy. Here you might take some of the freshly made but sufficiently cooled tea and either place some drops directly into the eye or use in an eye-cup to bathe the eye. It is highly likely that some instant relief will be experienced and such a treatment could be repeated as often as needed until the condition resolved.

Similarly, one can quickly see its healing action on the skin if there are hives or some other kind of inflammatory eruption. In such case you can make a tea of Agrimony using 5 or 6 heaped tsps to 2 cups of boiling water, covered and allowed to steep for 15 minutes, then strain and allow to cool. This tea can be sprayed or dabbed on to any affected areas and some significantly soothing effects should be felt more or less immediately.

If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or have your own reasons to want to understand this plant ally at a much deeper level then I warmly encourage you to take a cup of Agrimony leaf tea of a small dose of its tincture and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, observe for yourself how it makes you feel. This old method of 'experiential' learning may give you a greater appreciation of the herb's 'action' than you could ever glean by reading about it.

Speaking for myself I can feel a rather lovely spreading effect from the herb that starts in my throat and slowly moves down into my chest and upper abdomen. Feeling its action in such a way helps me to understand how Agrimony can bring tone to tissues.

Further to that, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here

I see Agrimony working particularly well in combination with other healing herbs such as Calendula, Plantain, Limeflowers & the great Chamomile. The dosage to gets the benefits of Agrimony do not seem to have to be very high; a tsp or two of the dried herb, a ml or two of the tincture.


Personal experience of Phyllis Light - American Herbalist

"The taste of agrimony is sweet, acrid, and a little bitter. I often have the client taste the herb, just a drop of tincture or a sip of decoction, if agrimony tastes sweet, then there's a good chance they will respond positively to the tension-relieving properties of the herb. If it tastes acrid, then they will more than likely respond to the astringent properties.

Some clients may respond to all the tastes of agrimony, especially since the taste strikes in layers, one taste predominating over the others. The first few tastes may be sweet, but then the acridity comes in for a while and then the bitter strikes a note or vice versa.

One client told me she could actually feel the lymph nodes in her neck quiver and then relax, drainage followed. I also use agrimony to relieve tension in the liver, the bladder and in the gut. I think it helps folks who are really tense and stressed, who are constipated, have poor ability to sleep, and slow moving digestion. The slow-moving digestion is from constriction and tenseness in the bowels and gut lymphatics. The tissues relax and movement occurs.

Agrimony is also good for children who wet the bed because they are so afraid they are going to wet the bed that they do."

Phyllis Light

Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Agrimony is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This interesting and useful subject is introduced further here

There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Agrimony shows itself as a gentle, toning herb that can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - more about that here

Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898

Agrimony is a mild tonic, alterative, and astringent. A decoction of it is highly recommended in bowel complaints, leucorrhoea, chronic mucous diseases, chronic affections of the digestive organs, profuse bleedings, of an asthenic character, certain cutaneous diseases, icterus, etc.

A strong decoction, sweetened with honey, is reputed curative in scrofula, if its use be persisted in for a length of time; and it has also been highly extolled in the treatment of gravel, asthma, coughs, and obstructed menstruation.

Dr. D. C. Payne speaks highly of a continued use of a decoction of this plant in the treatment of erysipelas and scrofulous affections, to be used freely, in connection with diet and regularity of the bowels. It is also reputed to be valuable as a diuretic, and has been considered a specific in dropsy and in gonorrhoea. As a gargle, the decoction is useful in ulcerations of the mouth and throat.

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd