Masterwort

Peucedanum ostruthium or Imperatoria ostruthium

Masterwort is a perennial member of the Apiaceae family of plants with characteristic umbrella-like flower heads seen in other members of this carrot family. It is native to Europe but has been cultivated throughout the world with several varieties developed for the ornamental plant trade, sometimes sold under the name peuce. Masterwort is also known as imperatoria and master root.

Many other plants have been given the name Masterwort, or variations of it, and several bear a physical resemblance. These include Astrantia(great masterwort), Goutweed (wild masterwort), Hogweed and Angelica. To confuse matters more, many of these also enjoy similar growing conditions.

Gardening and Wildcrafting Masterwort

Several varieties of masterwort have been bred for the nursery trade, including some with interesting variegated leaves that look nice in a moon garden. These plants prefer at least a half-day of shade and moist, rich soil and are also a good choice for a woodland garden. They form a neat mound, about 10 inches tall by 18 inches wide, but will send up their umbrella-shaped heads of fragrant white flowers to a height of 3 feet from Midsummer through August. They should be planted with about 2 feet of space, but expect them to spread out a bit over the years. This is a well-mannered plant that does not tend to become invasive, though it has naturalized outside of its native habitat where it can be found in damp meadows, woodland edges and along riverbanks.

Masterwort is hardy in zones 5-9 and prefers full to partial shade, but will survive in full sun if it is kept well watered.

The seeds need to be cold stratified for proper germination. You can plant it in the garden in autumn and it should sprout in the spring, but if you want to provide extra protection by starting seeds indoors, they can be refrigerated for 1-3 months in a wet medium prior to sowing them in the warm spring garden or in pots indoors for transplant later.

Healing Uses of Masterwort

Masterwort is a warming herb used to promote heat in the body.

Traditional use of the root includes chewing it or gargling with a decoction to relieve a toothache and steeping it in wine to help relieve a fever or treat liver disease, jaundice, leprosy, coughs, and to promote menstruation.

Traditional use of the leaves includes applying them to wounds to encourage healing.

Masterwort is a traditional veterinary remedy for cows and horses to increase appetite and milk production.

Masterwort tea is said to benefit digestion.

Magical Uses of Masterwort

Masterwort corresponds to the planet Mars and the element Fire. It can be used in any spell to promote courage or strength and for protection.

Sprinkling an area with the powdered root, or a decoction of the root is said to force any resident spirits to make themselves known.

Carrying the root in your pocket will help keep evil beings (variously identified as witches, troublesome faeries, trolls, the devil, etc.) from bothering you, and planting some near your door will keep them from entering your house.

Wash your weapons with a decoction of masterwort root to ensure they strike true, for hunting or battle.

Use the root of masterwort in sympathetic spells to ensure your mastery over a situation or over other people.

Culinary Uses of Masterwort

The leaves can be used as a potherb and has been used to flavor cheese. The roots provide a slow heat that burns hotter than peppers when used to season foods. Masterwort has historically been used to flavor alcoholic beverages, including beer.

Cautions and Toxicity

The sap from masterwort can cause phototoxicity if it comes into contact with the skin. The degree of reaction varies by individual.

Masterwort is mildly toxic and large doses can cause hallucinations.

Masterwort should not be used during pregnancy.

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