Agrimony (Water)

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Agrimony (Water)

Botanical Name: Bidens tripartita (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae
Synonym: Bur Marigold.
Part Used: Whole plant.

The Water Agrimony, now called the Bur Marigold is an annual flowering in late summer and autumn, abounding in wet places, such as the margins of ponds and ditches, and common in England, but rather less so in Scotland.

---Description: The root is tapering, with many fibres attached to it. The erect stem grows about 2 feet high, sometimes more, and is wiry and nearly smooth, angular, solid and marked with small brown spots, so as to almost give it the dark purple appearance described by Culpepper. It is very leafy and the upper portion branches freely from the axils of the leaves, which are placed opposite one another and are of a dark green colour 2 to 3 inches in length. All except the uppermost are narrowed into winged foot-stalks at the bases, which are united together across the stem. They are smooth and sharp-pointed, with coarsely toothed margins, and are divided into three segments (hence the specific name of the plant), occasionally into five, the centre lobe much larger and also often deeply three-cleft. The uppermost leaves are sometimes found undivided.

The composite flowers are in terminal heads, brownish-yellow in colour and somewhat drooping, usually without ray florets the disk florets being perfectly regular. The heads are surrounded by a leafy involucre, the outer leaflets of which, about eight in number, pointed and spreading, extend much behind the flower-head. The fruits have four ribs, which terminate in long, spiky projections, or awns, two of which, as well as the ribs, are armed with reflexed prickles, causing them to cling to any rough substance they touch, such as the coat of an animal, thus helping in the dissemination of the seeds. From these burr-like fruits, the plant has been given the name it now universally bears. These burrs, when the plant has been growing on the borders of a fish-pond, have been known to destroy gold fish by adhering to their gills. The flower-heads smell rather like rosin or cedar when burnt.

Medicinal Action and Uses: This plant was formerly valued for its diuretic and astringent properties, and was employed in fevers, gravel, stone and bladder and kidney troubles generally, and was considered also a good stypic and an excellent remedy for ruptured blood-vessels and bleeding of every description, of benefit to consumptive patients. Culpepper tells us that it was called Hepatorium 'because it strengthens the liver': 'it healeth and drieth, cutteth and cleanseth thick and tough humours of the breast and for this I hold it inferior to few herbs that grow . . . it helpeth the dropsy and yellow jaundice; it opens the obstruction of the liver, mollifies the hardness of the spleen, being applied outwardly. . . it is an excellent remedy for the third day ague; . . . it kills worms and cleanseth the body of sharp humours which are the cause of itch and scab; the herb being burnt, the smoke thereof drives away flies, wasps, etc. It strengthens the lungs exceedingly. Country people give it to their cattle when they are troubled with cough or are broken-winded.' It has sometimes been employed on the Continent as a yellow dye, but the colour yielded is very indifferent. The yarn or thread must be first steeped in alum water, then dried and steeped in a decoction of the plant and afterwards boiled in the decoction.

A nearly-allied species, Bidens bipinnata (Linn.), popularly called Spanish Needles, is a native of North America, where the roots and seeds have been used as emmenagogues and in laryngeal and bronchial diseases.

MARIGOLD (NODDING). Another species of Bidens, called B. cernua, popularly known as the Nodding Marigold. The flowers are somewhat larger than B. tripartita,and have a much more decided droop, hence the name 'Nodding.' The leaves are not made up of three leaflets but are of lanceolate form, deeply serrated. It is found by streams and ditches, and flowers during the later summer and autumn.