Herb: Wood Avens

Latin name: Geum urbanum

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Wood Avens:

Wood avens is an astringent herb, used principally to treat problems affecting the mouth, throat and gastro-intestinal tract. It tightens up soft gums, heals mouth ulcers, makes a good gargle for infections of the pharynx and larynx, and reduces irritation of the stomach and gut. All parts of the plant, but especially the root, are anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, febrifuge, stomachic, styptic and tonic. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, intestinal disorders, stomach upsets, irritable bowel syndrome and liver disorders, it is also applied externally as a wash to haemorrhoids, vaginal discharges etc and to treat various skin afflictions - it is said to remove spots, freckles and eruptions from the face. The root is best harvested in the spring, since at this time it is most fragrant. Much of the fragrance can be lost on drying, so the root should be dried with great care then stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container, being sliced and powdered only when required for use.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Woods, scrub, hedge banks, walls etc, usually on good damp soils.

Edible parts of Wood Avens:

Young leaves - cooked. Root - cooked. Used as a spice in soups, stews etc, and also as a flavouring in ale. It is a substitute for cloves with a hint of cinnamon in the flavour. It is best used in spring. The root is also boiled to make a beverage. The root is up to 5cm long.

Other uses of the herb:

The freshly dug root has a clove-like fragrance, when dried it is used in the linen cupboard to repel moths. The root contains about 9% tannin.

Propagation of Wood Avens:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer" Division in spring or autumn. This should be done every 3 - 4 years in order to maintain the vigour of the plant. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Woods, scrub, hedge banks, walls etc, usually on good damp soils.

Known hazards of Geum urbanum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.