Woodruff or Sweet Woodruff is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Rubiaceae family. These plants are also known as Wild Baby’s Breath and Waldmeister (in German). The leaves of these herbal plants are often used as a flavoring agent for their strong sweet aroma. These medicinal plants are sometimes confused with other plants from the Rubiaceae family such as Galium verum and Galium triflorum.

Woodruff Scientific Name

The scientific name for these plants is Galium odoratum.

Woodruff Description

These small perennial plants are highly valued for their attractive appearance as well as their ap[ealing aroma.

Woodruff Picture Picture 1 – Woodruff

Size: These plants can grow to a height of 12 inches to 20 inches (30 and 50 cm).

Stem: They have soft green stems, often making the plants lie flat at ground level forming a thick groundcover. Sometimes they grow with the support of taller plants.

Leaves: They have dark green lanceolate glabrous leaves growing 2 to 5 cm long. 6 to 9 leaves grow together in whorls directly from the stem. These leaves develop a beautiful aroma resembling to that of vanilla, when dried.

Flowers: Small white funnel shaped flowers grow in cymes. Each Woodruff flower grows between 4 mm and 7 mm with four petals.

Fruits: The small round fruits of these herbal plants grow 2 to 4 mm in diameter. These fruits are covered in small hooked bristles or spines which stick to animal fur and clothing to help the fruits get dispersed.

Sweet Woodruff Distribution

This species of flowering plants are native to different regions of North America, Europe and western regions of Asia. They are also grown in many other parts of the world.

Woodruff Cultivation

The Woodruffs  are quite popular with gardeners around the world as ground cover and their gorgeous flowers, attracting various pollinating insects.

Growing Conditions

Soil: Humus rich moist well drained soils are ideal for growing these herbal plants.

Soil pH Requirements: The pH levels of the soil should ideally range between 5.0 and 5.5.

Sunlight: These plants grow best in full shade. However, they can also survive in partial sunlight. Their foliage tends to scorch when exposed to full sunlight.

Temperature: Moderate temperatures are ideal for the proper growth of these plants.

Water: They need plenty of water in order to grow properly.

How to Grow Sweet Woodruff Plants

These low maintenance plants can be grown easily form seeds. Woodruff tends to become an invasive plant unless its growth is controlled by pruning or mowing.

  • Sweet Woodruff seeds need to be planted indoors in containers in order to get germinated.
  • After germination small plants are planted outdoors in well drained soils, rich in organic fertilizers.
  • One can mulch the soil with a 3 inch layer of organic compost.
  • These plants need pruning for removing old flower stalks after each flowering.
  • Thin layers of organic fertilizer should be applied during spring.
  • It is important to water them regularly, especially during summer when natural rainfall is scarce.


This fruit-bearing plant can be harvested throughout the year. Harvesting is done by cutting leaves and stems with scissors.

Woodruff Health Benefits

These herbal plants have numerous health benefits to offer, such as:

  • They have anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, diuretic and sedative properties.
  • The leaves of these medicinal plants can counteract blood clotting.
  • This herb is beneficial for hepatitis, digestion and liver obstructions.
  • It is believed to be beneficial for cough and cold.
  • This herb can improve appetite.
  • The asperuloside contents of these medicinal plants can be changed into the hormone-like compounds known as prostaglandins.
  • It is also beneficial for various nervous system disorders.
  • It can regulate the activities of heart.

Woodruff Nutritional Information

This herb is rich in various nutrients. It contains l-ascorbic acid and flavonoids which are nutritious for human health. Various secondary sources report it contains citric, rubichloric, malic and tannic acids.

Photos of Woodruff Picture 2 – Woodruff Photos

Woodruff Uses

Dry Sweet Woodruff leaves have a wonderful aroma making them useful for various edible purposes. This herb is also used for numerous other purposes as well.

Edible Uses

  • This herb is used in flavoring various beverages like beer, wine and brandy.
  • It is used for making May wine mainly in Germany.
  • The scented leaves of these small plants are also used as a flavoring agent in jams, jellies, candies and ice creams.
  • This herb is used in the Georgian soft drink known as Tarhun.
  • It is used along with vodka for making a popular party drink in Germany.
  • These leaves are also used for making herbal tea, having mild sedative properties.

Medicinal Uses

  • This herb is used for alleviating abdominal cramps and numerous intestinal disorders.
  • It is used for treating gas, stomach upsets, kidney stones and various liver problems.
  • The leaves and young stems of these herbal plants work as anodyne in migraines, neuralgia and headaches.
  • It is useful for the treatments of sleeplessness, depression, insomnia and nervousness.
  • Fresh leaves of these medicinal plants can be applied on wounds and cuts as they have healing properties.
  • It is used for curing cardiac diseases.
  • These medicinal plants are useful for the treatment of jaundice.

Other Uses

  • Dried Woodruff plants are popularly used in pot-pourri in many countries.
  • They are also used as moth repellant.
  • These hardy perennial plants are widely grown as ornamental ground cover.
  • It was used for stuffing mattresses.
  • Woodruff leaf infusion is sometimes used in face wash.

Using Woodruff Herb during Pregnancy

One should avoid using this herb in any form during pregnancy as their toxic coumarin contents can cause many complications.

Storing Woodruff

The sweet aroma of the Woodruff leaves increases when dried. This aroma is derived from their coumarin contents. Due to this reason, harvested leaves of these herbal plants need to be thoroughly dried for any edible uses. It is important to wash the leaves and young stems properly before drying. Washed foliage can be tied in bunches and hung from strings in a warm room in order to dry. Dried herb can be stored in airtight containers away from direct sunlight.

Woodruff Herb Side Effects

These herbal plants are known to contain coumarin which can be toxic when consumed in high amounts.

  • Over consumption of this herb can cause headaches.
  • Consuming very high amounts of this herb can result in somnolence and vertigo.
  • Its coumarin contents can even cause central paralysis and apnoea to people in coma.

Woodruff Availability

Woodruff herb, plants and seeds are available online at reasonable prices. One can also buy this herb at herb stores. The price for one pound of this herb ranges between $ 18 and $22. Packages containing four Sweet Woodruff plants cost between $ 9 and $ 12 while the price for 25 seeds of these plants ranges from $2 to $ 4.

Woodruff Interesting Facts

Here are some interesting facts about these herbal medicinal plants:

  • These perennial plants are able to tolerate extremely cold temperatures down to -25 °C.
  • The Anglo-Saxon people used these plants for making a red dye.
  • Cows are sometimes fed with these small plants along with other fodders for adding a special aroma to the milk.
  • Commercial uses of this herb are banned in Germany since 1981.

Woodruff Pictures

Here are some images of these elegant attractive plants.

Images of Woodruff Picture 3 – Woodruff Image

Pictures of Woodruff Picture 4 – Woodruff Picture

Woodruff plants are very popular as a flavoring agent despite their potential toxicity. Their popularity as ornamental ground cover is growing rapidly all over the world. The fact that they can survive extreme cold temperature makes them even more popular. These gorgeous plants can be a valuable addition to any decorative garden.






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