The 10–30 cm high herb with tetragonal straight stems, whorled leaves and white flowers, with a distinct smell of coumarine, is often found like a meadow spread in shady broadleaf forests of Central Europe. Flowering season is from April to May.
Use: Among the ancient Germans beer seasoned with woodruff was a popular inebriant, that found its use in full moon parties, during which the marriage of the sun god Baldur with the goddess of vegetation was celebrated. Until our time the custom of a may wine, steeped with woodruff, remains. Two to three handful of the slightly wilted or dried herb is poured over with white wine, left to stand for several hours and then drunk. The dried herb can also be placed in 40 percent alcohol (vodka) and left to stand overnight. On the next day strain, and fill up with white wine or champagne.
Active constituents: Coumarine, asperuloside, tannin, bitter principles, oils and moreover unknown substances. Coumarine is coupled in the fresh plant and only released by means of wilting/drying.
Effect: In lower dosages it is stimulating, euphoriant and aphrodisiac, in higher doses strongly inebriating, expanding perception, hallucinogenic.
Side Effects: After the consumption of large amounts headache and typical alcohol hangover symptoms can occur on the following day. Especially after consuming higher doses, the inebriating and sensitizing effect can still be felt several days after. Large amounts can cause miscarriages among pregnant women.
Suppliers: It is best gathered during the flowering season in the forest. The dried herb is available in herbal stores.
Miscellaneous: Woodruff was lately mislabeled as supposedly unhealthy by German authorities and nowadays it is no longer permitted to be used in foods (but lots of questionable artificial substances seem to be okay for them). As a result, today all woodruff-products like for instance effervescent powder contain only an artificial aroma.