Herb: Melilot

Latin name: Melilotus officinalis

Synonyms: Melilotus arvensis

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Melilot:

Melilot, used either externally or internally, can help treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids though it requires a long-term treatment for the effect to be realised. Use of the plant also helps to reduce the risk of phlebitis and thrombosis. Melilot contains coumarins and, as the plant dries or spoils, these become converted to dicoumarol, a powerful anticoagulant. Thus the plant should be used with some caution, it should not be prescribed to patients with a history of poor blood clotting or who are taking warfarin medication. See also the notes above on toxicity. The flowering plant is antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, mildly expectorant, mildly sedative and vulnerary. An infusion is used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, varicose veins, painful congestive menstruation, in the prevention of thrombosis, flatulence and intestinal disorders. Externally, it is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas, whilst a decoction is added to the bath-water. The flowering plant is harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use. A distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

Grassy fields and roadsides, avoiding acid soils.

Edible parts of Melilot:

Root. Consumed as a food by the Kalmuks. Young shoots - cooked. Used like asparagus. Young leaves are eaten in salads. The leaves and seedpods are cooked as a vegetable. They are used as a flavouring. Only fresh leaves should be used, see the notes above on toxicity. The crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings, pastries etc. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flowers - raw or cooked. The flowers and seeds are used as a flavouring. The flowers also give an aromatic quality to some tisanes.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves contain coumarin and they release the pleasant smell of newly mown hay when they are drying. The leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent, especially in order to repel moths from clothing. They can be put in pillows, mattresses etc. Poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol. This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in excess, it prevents the blood from coagulating and so it is possible to bleed to death from very small wounds. Dicoumarol is used in rat poisons. The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter.

Propagation of Melilot:

Seed - sow spring to mid-summer in situ. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.

Cultivation of the herb:

Grassy fields and roadsides, avoiding acid soils.

Known hazards of Melilotus officinalis:

The dried leaves can be toxic. though the fresh leaves are quite safe to use. This is possibly due to the presence of coumarin, the substance that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay, if taken internally it can prevent the blood clotting.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.