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Yellow Melilot

  • Melilotus officinalis L.
  • Pea family

Common Names

herbsHay flowers
herbsHoney lotus
herbsHsun-ts'ao (Chinese name)
herbsKing's clover
herbsSweet clover
herbsYellow sweet clover

Parts Usually Used

The flowering plant

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Yellow melilot is a biennial plant; the slender, branched, hollow stems, from 1 1/2 to 5 feet high, bear pinnate leaves (clover-like) with 3 obovate or oblanceolate leaflets, which are finely toothed and blunt-tipped. Blooming from June to November, the fragrant, light golden-yellow pea-like flowers grow in axillary racemes. Later, long crooked pods appear, they contain flat brown seeds. The plant is fragrant when crushed.

Another variety: White melilot (M. alba), a similar but taller, white-flowered species, has the same medicinal uses. Biennial, grows 1-9 feet tall, leaves clover-like; leaflets elongate, slightly toothed. Small white, pea-like flowers in long, tapering spikes, blooms April to October. Like yellow melilot, it is a very common plant in fields and waste places over most of North America and in Europe and Asia.

Where Found

Grows along roadsides and in waste places in Eurasia and throughout North America, except in the far north.

Medicinal Properties

Antispasmodic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, vulnerary

Biochemical Information

Coumarins in both of these clovers may decrease blood clotting.

Legends, Myths and Stories

The name melilot is derived from the words mel, or honey, and lotus; meaning honey lotus.

Yellow melilot repels moths. Europeans sew the dried plant into an herb pillow.

This herb is abundant in the Yangtse region of China. The Chinese use yellow melilot medicinally, use it in cosmetics, and burn it as an incense.

Moldy hay causes uncontrollable bleeding in cattle due to coumarins. Science has developed compounds like warfarin from such coumarins to prevent blood clotting in rodents.


Used externally in a salve or as a poultice for swellings, boils, and similar skin problems, old sores, wounds, swellings, milk knots, arthritis, rheumatism. The decoction used as a wash for wounds, aching muscles, convulsions, varicose veins, anti-inflammatory, eyewash. Internally it is used for colic, stomach problems, gas, diarrhea, painful menstruation, smoked for asthma, and headaches and chronic bronchitis. Used as a tea, (take 1 cup 3 times a day), this herb is helpful where there is weakness of tone of the penis and partial impotence. A concentrated preparation made from the plant is sometimes prescribed by doctors as an anti-coagulant to break up blood clots. Components of this herb may lower blood pressure but care should be taken, it also lowers blood clotting.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. herb in 1 cup boiling water. Take 1 to 1 1/2 cups per day.

Poultice: put about 1/2 oz. dried plant into a small cloth bag. Boil briefly in water; let steep a few minutes; then apply as hot as can be tolerated.


Do not use with warfarin or other blood-thinning drugs, or with any blood-clotting problem. See the doctor.

Coumarins in both of these clovers may decrease blood clotting.

Large doses can cause vomiting and other symptoms of poisoning.

Do not use without medical supervision.

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