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Geum urbanum, also known as wood avens, herb Bennet, colewort and St. Benedict's herb (Latin herba benedicta), is a perennial plant in the rose family (Rosaceae), which grows in shady places (such as woodland edges and near hedgerows) in Europe and the Middle East.
Usually reaching a height between 20 and 60 cm, wood avens blooms between May and August, and its flowers are 1 - 2 cm in diameter, having five bright yellow petals. The hermaphrodite flowers are scented and pollinated by bees. The fruits have burrs, which are used for dispersal by getting caught in the fur of rabbits and other animals. The root is used as a spice in soups and also for flavouring ale.
Geum urbanum hybridises fairly regularly with Geum rivale (water avens), as they are closely related and occur together.
In folklore, wood avens is credited with the power to drive away evil spirits, and to protect against rabid dogs and venomous snakes. It was associated with Christianity because its leaves grew in threes and its petals in fives (reminiscent of, respectively, the Holy Trinity and the Five Wounds). Astrologically, it was said to be ruled by Jupiter.
In herbal medicine
Geum urbanum herb and roots have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea for treatment of rheumatism, gout, infections, and fever.
- Vogl S, Picker P, Mihaly-Bison J, Fakhrudin N, Atanasov AG, Heiss EH, Wawrosch C, Reznicek G, Dirsch VM, Saukel J, Kopp B. Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine - An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs. J Ethnopharmacol.2013 Jun13. doi:pii: S0378-8741(13)00410-8. 10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23770053. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23770053
- Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987), pp 99-100.