Water avens, also known as avens, drooping avens, cure-all and botanically referred to as geum rivale is a hairy, perennial flowering plant with an erect stem. The plant is native to North America, UK, and Siberia and belongs to the rosaceae (rose) family.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
The plant is fondly referred to as Indian chocolate in the US because native Americans used it to make chocolate by boiling the roots to make a chocolate-like beverage. Later the beverage was adopted by colonists as a substitute for chocolate and for flavoring brandy or drinking water.
Between May and July, water avens produces purple or red nodding flowers that make the plant quite a sight to behold and easy to identify. In some instances, the plant may bring forth purplish sepals with yellow or rose-colored petals.
Apart from being used as a substitute for chocolate, water avens flowers and roots are used for medicinal purposes. The colonialists used the fresh or dried root of the plant to cure malaria and sore throat.
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The plant contains tannin which is thought to be responsible for astringent actions. This explains why water avens is commonly used to treat uterine hemorrhage, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and fevers. In addition, the plant has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities.
In ancient times, a mixture of water avens’ flowers, leaves, and roots, combined with St.John’s wort was boiled in milk and mixed with butter to treat hoarseness. Alternatively, a cold infusion was made by soaking the dried, powdered root in cold water for a day and a cupful taken daily until the symptoms subsided.
Water avens is known to contain compounds that help in treating fertility problems. It was used to resolve gynecological problems including painful and irregular menses. This curious cure was made using ashes of a hart’s horn killed with its antlers on, red bastard balm (melittis melissophyllum), goosefoot, and small burdock (arctium minus). The mixture was boiled and mixed with wine before being administered daily until it was finished. Ancient people believed that drinking this concoction diverted the menstrual blood to the ankles and thighs.
Water avens may not be showy, popular or fragrant compared to other flowers in the rose family, but it is truly a perfect example of Mother Nature’s providence. After all, it is not every day you encounter a plant with chocolate qualities, right?