Homemade Meadowsweet Syrup (Cordial)

 reading time: 8 min

Have you ever heard of Meadowsweet? Or walked through a meadow and noticed a distinct lovely sweet smell, like almonds and honey? Then chances are that you have passed meadowsweet blooming. It also goes by the names of Mead Wort, Queen of the Meadow, Lady of the Meadow, and Bridewort among other names. I like to think of it as the wild little sister of elderflowers, and you can use it just like elderflowers to make syrup/cordial, tea infusions, jelly, mead, champagne, or to infuse into vinegars.
After sharing a recipe for homemade elderflower cordial last summer, this year I'm trying out a variation with meadowsweet. So if you missed the elderflower season this year, don't be sad – because the little-known meadowsweet is still in full bloom! It can be made into cordial in exactly the same way that elderflowers would be, and it has a similarly sweet, though definitely heavier, more almond-y flavour, kind of like amaretto cookies. As a lifelong fan of elderflower cordial, it feels like a betrayal to say this, but I think I almost like the meadowsweet version better!

This delicate meadowsweet cordial is also great for flavouring ice creams, cakes, panna cotta, yogurt, kombucha, white wine, champagne or prosecco.

The Health Benefits of Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is a perennial herb that is mostly known for containing salicylic acid, which is the natural version of the synthetically altered version of salicin that aspirin is made from (the word "aspirin" is even derived from Latin "spirin", based on meadowsweet’s former botanical genus name, "Spiraea"). The medicinal plant also contains vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium and silica, all of which are necessary for a good strong healthy bone system, hair and nails.
Used internally, meadowsweet is an excellent natural remedy to treat problems with joints and muscles such as rheumatic disorders, particularly inflammatory conditions like arthritis and gout due to its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being a mild painkiller. Its diuretic effect has proven effective in bladder and gallstone problems as well as fluid retention in the tissues.

Meadowsweet can also be used in a blood purifying cure, as well as a diaphoretic remedy for feverish colds. It's particularly useful
in conditions like acid stomach, heartburn, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colic, flatulence etc. All parts of the plant have an astringent effect and are a mild remedy for diarrhoea.
Used externally in ointments and poultices, it can help to relieve pain and improve wound healing.
Historically, meadowsweet has been used to flavour mead (hence the name "mead wort"), as well as being used as a strewing herb in Elizabethan times, strewn on floors (for example during weddings in churches, hence the name "bridewort") to give the rooms a pleasant aroma. Dried, the flowers are also used in potpourri.

It's also interesting to know that meadowsweet, water mint, and vervain were three herbs held most sacred by the Druids. Also, anything made with meadowsweet is ideal for using at the harvest festival Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, that is coming up on the 1st of August since this is one of the corresponding plants.

Where and How to Harvest Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) prefers moist habitats and sunlit areas, and therefore is often found near water or damp meadows, alongside drainage ditches, roadsides, hedgerows, streams and lakes. They can reach up to 2 meters in growth. And believe me, even though they are not very prominent flowers, once you start noticing them you’ll see them everywhere!

Before going out to forage for any wild meadowsweet, do your research to make sure you have the right flower. Plants that resemble the meadowsweet plant include its close relative and non-toxic dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) as well as the edible and equally delicious elderflowers, but it can also be mistaken for the deadly poisonous hemlock or the toxic fool's parsley. There are four ways to identify meadowsweet (and as with all wild herbs, make sure your plant matches ALL of the identifiers! only pick when you are 100 % sure this is the right one!):

1) the environment, as described above.
2) the leaves which are easy to identify because of their very distinctive pattern, with serrated, crinkled leaves coming out in pairs and tiny little leaflets in-between the larger leaves along the stalk, and a three-pronged leaf at the end, similar to a Canadian maple. The leaf stalks come out alternately from the evenly pinkish red stem. if you are still not sure, take a leave and crumple it between your fingers. It should have a characteristic medicinal smell similar to Germolene antiseptic cream due to the concentrated salicylic acid.
3) the shape of the fragrant flowers, which grow in irregular shaped clusters of frothy flowers known as cymes. Each tiny flower has 5 petals. When fully in bloom, they look fuzzy, candyfloss-like and of a similar creamy-white colour to that of the elder. Their fruits have a twisted, spiral-like appearance.
4) the scent of the flowers, which is a very sweet and intense mixture of honey and almond. It resembles the aroma of elderflowers a bit, but with a distinct hint of marzipan.

Meadowsweet flowers bloom from June to August, so make sure to collect the flowers when they are in full bloom for their intense aroma. As the flower blooms in "stages" and there are several inflorescences on one stem, the harvest time is quite long.

When picking meadowsweet, you want to remember that the flowers that are open are the ones that have the most smell and flavour, so avoid ones that have got the buds still closed up. Aside from not giving off any flavour, when you pick closed buds those will not be able to blossom later on – which means you'd be wasting a great source of nectar and food for wildlife, particularly bees!

I always do my best to find as many plants as possible so that I can take a little from each instead of taking everything from only a few plants. That way I leave plenty for the animals, especially the pollinators. About a "bridal bouquet" of meadowsweet (see picture at the bottom of this blog post) is enough to make a little over 2 litres of delicious cordial anyway!

It's best to harvest meadowsweet later in the morning on a dry sunny day. Don't pick them right after a rain shower as they will lose some of their aroma. Clip your meadowsweet flowers with scissors, and put them in a basket or a paper bag to allow them to breathe (and for bugs to escape).

General Foraging Guidelines:
  • You should be 100 % certain you are identifying the correct plant. If you do not know what it is, DO NOT eat it! Do not pick if you're in doubt!

  • Don't harvest from contaminated areas such as busy roadsides, near industrial facilities, where dogs pee, along the edges of agricultural fields, old landfill sites etc.

  • Be mindful & harvest sustainably. Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply, and never more than 1/4 of a plant, ideally only about 5 %.

  • Leave the harvesting area litter-free.

All parts of the plant are edible, and can be added to soups, sauces or stewed fruit for an aromatic flavour. The bitter roots can be used in tea infusions, as can the sweet flowers, and the leaves.

As the English botanist John Gerard once said: Meadowsweet »makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses«!


Preparation time: 30 mins + 24 hours infusing
Main ingredients: meadowsweet, sugar, oranges
difficulty level: easy
makes: 2 litres
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, low-fat


100 g fresh meadowsweet blossoms (about 30 to 40 flower heads)
2 organic oranges, sliced
2 litres of filtered water
500 to 1000 g of xylitol or raw cane sugar (depending on how sweet you like it – I used 750 g)

a large saucepan with lid
a nut milk bag or a fine mesh sieve
a funnel
clean, sealable bottles *

* I re-used a bunch of old juice bottles that I sterilized with boiling water, dish soap and vinegar; another way to sterilize your bottles is to put them in an oven on low heat of 110 °C / 230 °F for around ten minutes – if it is too hot, they’ll crack!


Day 1:

Place your freshly picked meadowsweet flowers outside on a kitchen towel or in a bowl. Leave them out in a shady spot outside for about an hour or so to give any creepy-crawlies a chance to escape.

Don't rinse your meadowsweet flowers! This would remove all the pollen which are actually what makes the flowers so sweet and flavourful! Instead, check your blossoms by giving them a little shake before using to remove any dirt or insects (yes, there will be some! That's what happens when you take a part of nature home with you 😊).

Strip the flower heads off the stems, as the stems and leaves contain the highest concentration of
the salicylic acid – which would make your cordial bitter and medicinal, like an antiseptic.

In a large saucepan bring 2 litres of water to a boil. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Switch off the heat, and add your meadowsweet flowers (the more the merrier). 
Make sure the flowers are completely submerged below the surface of the sugar water. Lastly, add your sliced organic oranges. Stir again.

Put a lid on the saucepan, and allow the mixture to steep for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight or up to 24 hours in a dark, cool place. This way all the flavour will pass from the sweet flowers into the liquid.

Day 2: 

The next day, strain everything off. Use a nut milk bag or a fine mesh sieve, and really squeeze the meadowsweet flowers and the orange slices to get all the sweet juice out. You will notice that the liquid has changed colour from being clear sugar water to a light yellow or even a deep golden colour.

Boil the strained mixture for about 5 minutes on the stovetop. Whilst still hot, fill the cordial into warm glass bottles, which have been sterilised beforehand. (Adding the hot cordial to cold glass bottles may cause them to crack!)

Seal while hot. Label your bottles, noting the content and also the date of brewing. Store in a dark and cool place, such as the fridge or your cellar. You can also freeze some of the cordial using regular ice cube trays. The sealed cordial will keep for several months. 
Once you open a bottle, it must be stored in the refrigerator. This way it will keep for 4-6 weeks in the fridge.

To make a refreshing drink, put about 2 tablespoons of the highly concentrated meadowsweet cordial into a glass and top up with 200 ml of water, either sparkling or still. Serve over ice. It also tastes great mixed with lemon juice and mint, or mixed prosecco (similar to my elderflower cocktail) or with kombucha. A spoonful of this over vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt is also delicious!

If you want it to keep for even longer, add some citric acid after infusing the flowers.
- Personally I think that oranges best suit the almond taste of meadowsweet, but feel free to use lemons instead of oranges, or do 1 orange and 1 lemon. Just make sure they're organic!
- You can also add 1 or 2 cups of raspberries and/or a thick slice of ginger to infuse along with the meadowsweet.
- The reason why the meadowsweet flowers are infused instead of boiled is because you get a much better flavour this way. If you boil it up, it can start to taste somewhat medicinal.
- The meadowsweet syrup can also be used for salad dressings, especially with tomatoes.
- CAUTION: Those under the age of 12, or who have an Aspirin sensitivity, or suffer from a blood thinning disorder or asthma, or those on blood thinning tablets should avoid meadowsweet! It should also be avoided during all stages of pregnancy and nursing.

P.S. It's my Mum's birthday today, and she's getting a batch of meadowsweet cordial, along with other homemade goodies, but shhh! ☺️