Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Imperatoria ostruthium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Part Used: Root.

Masterwort, though rare in the wild state, was formerly cultivated in this country for use as a pot-herb and in medicine. It is sometimes found in moist meadows in the north of England and in Scotland, but is generally regarded as naturalized, having originally been a garden escape. Its native habitat is Central Europe.

Description: It is a smooth, perennial plant, the stout, furrowed stem growing 2 to 3 feet high. The dark-green leaves, which somewhat resemble those of Angelica, are on very long foot-stalks and are divided into `three leaflets, each of which is often again sub-divided into three. The umbels of flowers are large and many-rayed, the corollas white; the fruit has very broad wings.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative; of use in asthma, dyspepsia, menstrual complaints. The root, to quote Culpepper, 'is the hottest and sharpest part of the plant, hotter than pepper, and (in his opinion) very available in cold griefs and diseases both of the stomach and body.' He tells us that it was also used 'in a decoction with wine against all cold rheums, distillations upon the lungs or shortness of breath,' and also states that it was considered effectual in dropsy, cramp, falling sickness, kidney and uterine troubles and gout. Also that 'it is of a rare quality against all sorts of cold poison, to be taken as there is a cause; it provoketh sweat.'

'But,' he advises, 'lest the taste hereof or of the seed, should be too offensive, the best way is to take the water distilled both from the herb and root.'

Preparation: Fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms.