Herb: Sweet Vernal Grass

Latin name: Anthoxanthum odoratum

Family: Gramineae (Grass Family)

Medicinal use of Sweet Vernal Grass:

The whole plant, and especially the flowering stems, is anticoagulant, antispasmodic and stimulant. It is normally only applied externally, where it is used in the treatment of rheumatic pain, chilblains, nervous insomnia etc. It is said that a tincture made from this grass with spirit of wine is an effective and immediate cure for hay fever.

Description of the plant:


45 cm
(1 foot)

to June


Habitat of the herb:

Meadows, woodland margins, heaths and moors on acid and basic soils.

Edible parts of Sweet Vernal Grass:

Seed. The seed is very small and its use would be fiddly. A tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. A sweet pleasant fragrance. Some caution is advised, see notes at top of the page.

Other uses of the herb:

The aromatic leaves and dried flowers are used as a strewing herb, they are also woven into baskets and used in pot-pourri. The plant contains coumarin - this is used medicinally and also in rat poisons where it prevents the blood from co-aggulating and thus means that the slightest cut can kill the rat.

Propagation of Sweet Vernal Grass:

Seed - sow April in situ, only just covering the seed. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks. Division in spring. Very easy, it can be done successfully at almost any time of the year, though it is best to pot up the divisions in a cold frame if you are doing it outside the growing season.

Cultivation of the herb:

Meadows, woodland margins, heaths and moors on acid and basic soils.

Known hazards of Anthoxanthum odoratum:

The plant contains coumarins, this is what gives it the scent of newly mown hay. When used internally, especially from dried plants, it can act to prevent the blood from co-aggulating.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.