Agrimony is also known as Church Steeples, Cockeburr, Sticklewort, and Philanthropos.
It is the native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere,
with one species also in Africa. The plant is found abundantly throughout
England, on hedge-banks and the sides of fields, in dry thickets and on
all waste places. In Scotland it is much more local and does not penetrate
very far northward.
This herb is named after Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus, who was a famous herbalist. The name Agrimony is from Argemone, a word given by the Greeks to plants which were healing to the eyes, the name Eupatoria refers to Mithridates Eupator, a king who was a renowned concoctor of herbal remedies. The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript as one of the most famous vulnerary herbs.
The Anglo-Saxons, who called it Garclive, taught that it would heal wounds, snake bites, warts, etc. and one of these old writers recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages. It formed an ingredient of the famous arquebusade water as prepared against wounds inflicted by an arquebus, or hand-gun, and was mentioned by Philip de Comines, in his account of the battle of Morat in 1476. In France, the eau de arquebusade is still applied for sprains and bruises, being carefully made from many aromatic herbs.
Agrimonia grows throughout Britain, Europe, Asia and North America along roadsides, wasteland, hedges and banks
The whole plant is deep green and covered with soft hairs, and has a
slightly aromatic scent; even the small root is sweet scented, especially
This perennial herb grows to 0.5-2 m tall with pinnate leaves, and yellow flowers borne on a single spike. The leaves are resinous beneath and hairy along the veins. The fruits are enclosed within a tough capsule with a circle of hooked spines.
The flowers, though small, are numerous, arranged closely on slender, terminal spikes, which lengthen much when the blossoms have withered and the seed-vessels are maturing. The flowers which are in bloom from June to early September face boldly outwards and upwards towards the light, but after they have withered, the calyx points downwards. The spikes of flowers emit a most refreshing and spicy odour likes that of apricots.
The long flower-spikes of Agrimony have caused the name of 'Church Steeples' to be given the plant in some parts of the country. It also bears the title of 'Cockeburr,' 'Sticklewort' or 'Stickwort,' because its seed-vessels cling by the hooked ends of their stiff hairs to any person or animal coming into contact with the plant
Agrimony grows in sun or semi-shade and is very tolerant of dryish,
alkaline soil. It is easily grown in most soils. The seeds need cold
weather or stratification to germinate but will grow in a range of soil
types. The seeds are contained in burrs that can easily attach themselves
to clothing or animal's fur, thus transporting them to a new area where
they can germinate in 14-24 days and grow.
Agrimony plants are cut when they are flowering; avoid any flower spikes that have started to develop sharp burs.
The dried aerial parts are used in numerous ways. The leaves when dry
retain most of their fragrant odour, as well as the flowers, and are used
as a substitute or addition to tea, adding a peculiar delicacy and aroma
to its flavour.
Agrimony is one of the plants from the dried leaves of which in some country districts is brewed what is called 'a spring drink,' or 'diet drink, as a purifier of the blood. In France, the Agrimony tea is often drunk as a beverage at table for its fragrance and its virtues.
Agrimony contains a particular volatile oil, which may be obtained from
the plant by distillation and also a bitter principle. It yields in
addition 5 per cent of tannin, so that it's use in cottage medicine for
gargles and as an astringent applicant to indolent ulcers and wounds is
well justified. Owing to this presence of tannin, its use has been
recommended in dressing leather.
It contains up to 8% condensed tannins, coumarins, glycosidal bitters, nicotinic acid, volatile oil, around c20% polysaccharides, silica, iron, flavonoids (glucosides of luteolin, apigenin and quercetin), mucilage, phytosterols, vitamins B and K.
Other species (generally 12-15) are:
Agrimonia eupatoria - Common Agrimony (Europe, Asia, Africa)
Agrimonia gryposepala - Tall Hairy Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia incisa - Incised Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia koreana - Korean Agrimony (eastern Asia)
Agrimonia microcarpa - Smallfruit Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia nipponica - Japanese Agrimony (eastern Asia)
Agrimonia parviflora - Harvestlice Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia pilosa - Hairy Agrimony (Eastern Europe, Asia)
Agrimonia procera - Fragrant Agrimony (Europe)
Agrimonia pubescens - Soft Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia repens - Short Agrimony (southwest Asia)
Agrimonia rostellata - Beaked Agrimony (North America)
Agrimonia striata - Roadside Agrimony (North America)