Melilot was widely cultivated as animal fodder; horses, cattle and even deer would reed on it, giving it its country name of hart’s clover.
Melilot, melilotus officinalis, is a tall, fragrant, perennial herb which can be found growing along country lanes, railway cuttings, on chalky banks and in waste places. The leaves are divided into three leaflets which are bright green and oval-shaped. The smooth straight stem is branched, and each stem carries a long spike of attractive little yellow flowers, which bloom from June to September. The whole herb has a sweet smell much like new-mown hay which is very noticeable when the plant is dried and which is similar to woodruff. Both herbs contain a substance known as coumarin which attracts bees and accounts for the characteristic scent. The seed pods are ribbed and hairy and each pod contains two seeds.
Melilot herb or seeds can be collected from the wild, but it is a graceful plant in the garden when grown at the back of the flowerbed. Collect fresh seed from the wild plants in the autumn and immediately sow them in ordinary garden soil directly into their flowering position. Thin out the plants if required to a handspan apart. Melilot is a hardy plant and self sows readily. It needs little care or attention.
In the home melilot is a good moth deterrent laid among clothes and linen or hanging in a cupboard (closet). Leaves and flowering tips gathered early in the season are the parts of the herb used medicinally and these are dried separately and stored in the usual way. The dried herb is lightly scented but has a sharp, slightly bitter flavour.
Melilot tea relieves flatulence and other digestive troubles. It is also a remedy for sleeplessness and a cup of hot tea taken occasionally last thing at night will help to promote restful sleep.
* To make melilot tea: Pour a cup of boiling water on to 1 teaspoon of dried flowering tips and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Strain and add honey to sweeten and remove some of the bitterness. For mild digestive upsets, take a small glassful after a meal on an occasional basis only and make the tea fresh for each treatment.
Use a lotion as a compress for relieving painful and swollen joints.
* To make a compress: Pour 2 cups of boiling water on to 3 teaspoons of dried herb and leave to infuse for 15 minutes, Strain carefully into stoppered bottles and store either in the cool or in the refrigerator. Use within a few days while still fresh. Dip a piece of lint into the lotion and secure lightly over the affected part, or use the lotion on cotton wool pads or balls to bathe the area whenever possible.