Family: Rubiaceae, Galium odoratum (L.) Scop.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Woodruff, Galium odoratum (L.) Scop., is a perennial herb native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Formerly classified as Asperula odorata L. and sometimes commonly known as sweet woodruff, the species grows to a height of about 0.3 meters with erect and spreading stems, narrow green leaves, and white flowers that bloom in the spring.

The reported life zone of woodruff is 7 to 199Cdeg;C with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 1.4 meters and a soil pH of 4.5 to 8.5 (4.1-31). The plant grows best under shade and in a heavy mulch of organic matter that has adequate drainage. The plant is generally found and collected in moist, wooded locations, but it can be cultivated.

The main chemical constituents of woodruff include coumarin, tannin, asperuloside, fatty oil, essential oil, and a bitter principle (14.1-35). The characteristic new-mown hay aroma present in dry leaves, but not fresh leaves, comes from coumarin in the plant.

Fresh leaves are used as flavoring agents in nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages. May wine is prepared by adding fresh springs of woodruff to Rhine wine. Dried leaves have been used in sachets, and snuffs and as a bitter principle (14.1-35). Woodruff is also employed in perfume for its fragrance and as a fixative.

As a medicinal plant, woodruff has traditionally been considered an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and stomachic. Folk remedies include use of woodruff against jaundice and nervousness, to heal wounds, to regulate heart activity, and to improve the taste of other medicinal formulations. Coumarins present in woodruff are known to be indirect anticoagulants (11.1-96). The essential oil of woodruff is considered a carminative and mild expectorant (11.1-136). Dried leaves are used as an insect repellent.

Woodruff is generally recognized as safe for human consumption in alcoholic beverages (21 CFR section 172.515 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997