Avens & Ground Ivy: Spring Tea Herbs

I came across both of these plants this afternoon in the shade of cottonwood trees lining a riparian meadow a little ways outside the city. For both, the chief use is to dry and make tea.
Avens, Geum macrophyllum, is in the rose family. It has a fuzzy stem and five yellow petals which barely touch.

All parts of the plant are edible, technically, with the above-ground portions (leaves, flowers) most commonly infused in a tea and the root boiled and reportedly used as a substitute for clove seasoning at some point in European history. (The one I dug up didn’t smell particularly similar like cloves to my nose, that said, but there are some 50 different kinds of Geum and maybe the lore was referring to a different species). The tea can be useful as an astringent, for example to treat diarrhea; the leaves have a history of being made into a paste with water and applied to cure boils — so I’m using it on a blemish and hoping it works similarly. It reportedly has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also reportedly good for warding off evil spirits.


Ground Ivy, Glecoma hederacea, a.k.a. Gil-Over-The-Ground, a.k.a. Creeping Charlie, is a strongly aromatic herb in the mint family with a unique bitter-mint flavor. It is technically edible but in practice has leaves that are a little too pungent to eat much of raw. And like Avens, it is also an astringent. Specifically it’s been indicated as a cough medicine.

Ground Ivy has square stems and bright blue-purple flowers. Historically, it was a primary ingredient in brewing beer, and its name “Gil” may come from the French “guille,” which means to ferment, according to Stephen Buhner.

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5 thoughts on “Avens & Ground Ivy: Spring Tea Herbs

  1. What a coincidence. I’ve been watching the Avens grow all Spring and I only just last week figured out what the heck they were. Those first basal leaves are strangely fascinating. They remind me of fractals. Very cool plant. They are everywhere around here, common in all the wooded areas. There’s even one growing in my flower bed.

  2. I just edited a line in there with ambiguous punctuation. If you subscribe to my blog and got the first version emailed to you, then: I meant that both are astringents, and that Ground Ivy is specifically for coughs.

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