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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Melilotus officinalis
Alternative Names: Yellow Melilot, Ribbed Melilot

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Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis


  • Biennial
  • Yellow Sweet Clover is native to Eurasia and naturalized in N America.
  • It is a fully hardy, upright or spreading biennial with a large taproot and can grow up to 60 – 1.5m.
  • Yellow honey-scented flowers bloom in summer.
  • It is draught tolerant, does not like standing water and will grow in any well-drained neutral to alkaline soil (incl. saline soil) in sun.
  • It can be used as a cover crop to increase the nitrogen content and to improve subsoil water capacity in poor soils.
  • Sweet clover is a major source of nectar for honey bees.
  • If cut back before flowering, it will grow on for at least another year before dying.
  • The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like newly mown hay.
  • When Yellow Sweet Clover is invasive, it can be managed by mulching, hand-pulling, mowing, or herbicide applications before flowering.
  • Prescribed burns in late autumn or early spring followed by another burn in late spring can reduce the number of plants before seed set.

Culinary Uses

  • The young shoots can be cooked and used like asparagus.
  • Young leaves are eaten in salads.
  • Fresh leaves and seedpods can be cooked as a vegetable or used as a flavouring.
  • Crushed dried leaves can be used as a vanilla flavouring in puddings and pastries.
  • The flowers also give an aromatic quality to herbal infusions.

Parts Used

  • The whole flowering plant (including the roots) is harvested in summer and can be dried for later use.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Yellow Sweet Clover treats varicose veins and haemorrhoids though it requires a long-term treatment for the effect to be realised.
  • It will also help to reduce the risk of phlebitis (inflammation of a vein) and thrombosis.
  • The aerial parts contain coumarins and, as the plant dries, these become converted to dicoumarol, a powerful anticoagulant.
  • Therefor it should be used with some caution and should not be used by someone with a history of poor blood clotting or who are taking warfarin medication.
  • An infusion off the flowering plant can also be used in the treatment of sleeplessness, nervous tension, neuralgia, palpitations, painful congestive menstruation, flatulence and intestinal disorders.
  • Externally: A decoction added to the bath-water is used to treat eye inflammations, rheumatic pains, swollen joints, severe bruising, boils and erysipelas (a bacterial infection in the upper layer of the skin).
  • Distilled water obtained from the flowering tops is an effective treatment for conjunctivitis.

For Animals. It is said that

  • Good pasture or livestock feed.
  • It is most palatable in spring and early summer, but livestock may need time to adjust to the bitter taste of coumarin in the plant.
  • The harvested plants must be properly dried and cured because poorly dried or fermented leaves produce a substance called dicoumarol.
  • This is a potent anti-coagulant which is extremely poisonous in taken in excess and can lead to bleeding diseases (internal haemorrhaging) and death in cattle

Other Uses

  • Insect repellent - the dried leaves are used to repel moths from clothing and can be put in pillows and mattresses.
  • In the chemical industry, dicoumarol is extracted from the plant to produce rodenticides.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff

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