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Botanical Name: Alchemilla vulgaris
Synonyms: Lion’s Foot. Bear’s Foot. Nine Hooks. Leontopodium. Stellaria
The common name: , Lady’s Mantle (in its German form, Frauenmantle), was first bestowed on it by the sixteenth-century botanist, Jerome Bock, always known by the Latinized version of his name: Tragus. It appears under this name in his famous History of Plants, published in 1532, and Linnaeus adopted it. In the Middle Ages, this plant had been associated, like so many flowers, with the Virgin Mary (hence it is Lady’s Mantle, not Ladies’ Mantle), the lobes of the leaves being supposed to resemble the scalloped edges of a mantle. In mediaeval Latin we also find it called Leontopodium (lion’s foot), probably from its spreading root-leaves, and this has become in modern French, Pied-de-lion. We occasionally find the same idea expressed in two English local names, ‘Lion’s foot’ and ‘Bear’s foot.’ It has also been called ‘Stellaria,’ from the radiating character of its lower leaves, but this belongs more properly to quite another group of plants, with star-like blossoms of pure white.
Parts Used: Herb, root.
Habitat: The Lady’s Mantle and the Parsley Piert, two small, inconspicuous plants, have considerable reputation as herbal remedies. They both belong to the genus Alchemilla of the great order Rosaceae, most of the members of which are natives of the American Andes, only a few being found in Europe, North America and Northern and Western Asia. In Britain, we have only three species, Alchemilla vulgaris, the Common Lady’s Mantle, A. arvensis, the Field Lady’s Mantle or Parsley Piert, and A. alpina, less frequent and only found in mountainous districts
The Common Lady’s Mantle is generally distributed over Britain, but more especially in the colder districts and on high-lying ground, being found up to an altitude of 3,600 feet in the Scotch Highlands. It is not uncommon in moist, hilly pastures and by streams, except in the south-east of England, and is abundant in Yorkshire, especially in the Dales. It is indeed essentially a plant of the north, freely found beyond the Arctic circle in Europe, Asia and also in Greenland and Labrador, and only on high mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas, if found in southern latitudes.
Description: The rootstock is perennialblack, stout and short – and from it rises the slender erect stem. The whole plant is clothed with soft hairs. The lower, radical leaves, large and handsome, 6 to 8 inches in diameter, are borne on slender stalks, 6 to 18 inches long and are somewhat kidneyshaped in general outline, with their margins cut into seven or mostly nine broad, but shallow lobes, finely toothed at the edges, from which it has obtained one of its local names: ‘Nine Hooks.’ The upper leaves are similar and either stalkless, or on quite short footstalks and are all actually notched and toothed. A noticeable feature is the leaflike stipules, also toothed, which embrace the stem.
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The flowers, which are in bloom from June to August, are numerous and small, only about 1/8 inch in diameter, yellow-green in colour, in loose, divided clusters at the end of the freely-branching flower-stems, each on a short stalk, or pedicle. There are no petals, the calyx is four-cleft, with four conspicuous little bracteoles that have the appearance of outer and alternate segments of the calyx. There are four stamens, inserted on the mouth of the calyx, their filaments jointed.
The common English name is accounted for by the leaves resemblance to a cloak worn by English women in medieval times. A preparation of dried leave was used to control diarrhea and to stop bleeding.
Alchemilla has lime green leaves and dainty star shaped flowers, and has been in gardens since before the 16th century and I’m sure in the wild much before then. The entire plant is covered in very fine hairs that cause dew or soft rain to gather in it’s leaves. This liquid was known as “celestial water” and used in alchemy. These tiny jeweled drops inspired poetry and magic over the years.
The herb became known as Our Lady’s Mantle because the scalloped shape of the leaves, were thought to resemble the mantle (cloak) of the Virgin Mary. Later, politics intervened, and the “Our” was taken from the name.
Lady’s Mantle can be planted from seeds or by purchasing plants. The seed will germinate in the garden, but will take up to 2 years to flower. The plants can be divided in the spring or fall and are hardy in Zones 4-8 and possibly Zone 3. It will grow from 6 inches for the alpine variety to about 12-18 inches on the others. Space about 12 inches between plants. Lady’s Mantle needs a fertile soil and some moisture-more than the standard herbs. It can be in full sun in northern climates, but can tolerate some shade and in the warm climates prefers it.
The rootstock is astringent and edible and the leaves are eaten by sheep and cattle.
Medicinal Action and Uses: The Lady’s Mantle has astringent and styptic properties, on account of the tannin it contains. It is ‘of a very drying and binding character’ as the old herbalists expressed it, and was formerly considered one of the best vulneraries or wound herbs.
The root, harvested in spring or fall, and the leaves, harvested as the plant blooms in June, are used medicinally. A decoction of the fresh root is a powerful styptic which stops bleeding of a cut and is also used as an eyewash.. The leaves are also astringent and styptic owing to their tannin content. The tea is used internally for excessive menstrual bleeding, for prolonged blood loss due to menopausal or uterine fibroids and to reduce pains associated with periods as well as diarrhea. Lady’s mantle has a very rapid healing action and gargling with the herb after the loss or removal of teeth is one of the most beneficial activities the patient can indulge in. It is also very effective for mouth ulcers and sores as well as laryngitis. Any skin troubles, such as inflamed wounds or rashes, should also be bathed with a liquid made from this herb. It battles vomiting and flux and eases bruises and ruptures. After giving birth, women should drink a tea of Lady’s mantle, specially if it is mixed with shepherd’s purse or yarrow. It aids with debility of the abdomen and, for women who are likely to miscarry, it is strengthening for the fetus and the uterus. Culpeper claimed women who wanted to conceive should drink a decoction of Lady’s mantle for 20 days before conception. Once she is pregnant, the woman should sit in a bath made from the decoction. Culpeper also recommended it for “green wounds” or gangrene. One ounce of the dried leaves is added to a pint of water for medicinal purposes. While the plant is generally considered of historical interest in America, it has a long, continuing tradition as a popular European herb medicine. Its astringency, and hence medicinal benefit, is attributed to the tannin content, though the plant has been little studied. In Europe, decoctions or infusions of lady’s mantle are valuable to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal conditions. Europeans, especially Swedes, find it useful to reduce heavy menstruation and prevent menstrual and even intestinal cramping. It is also recommended when a woman’s body is adjusting hormone levels such as after childbirth and during menopause. Tinctures or gargles of the herb can help soothe irritated mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. A recent study identified the ellagitannins, agrimoniin and pendunculagin, in the herb. These compounds may be partly responsible for the plant’s biological activity. A trace of salicylic acid is also found in the plant.
Try using externally as a vaginal douche or following antibiotic treatment for trichomonas and candida infections when the healthy vaginal flora has been disturbed and requires strengthening. Ladys Mantle tea is also used as an adjunct treatment for ovarian failure or inflammation, irregular menstruation, prolapsed uterus, constitutional miscarriage and menopausal difficulties. Avoid during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant.”
Culpepper says of it:
‘Lady’s Mantle is very proper for inflamed wounds and to stay bleeding, vomitings, fluxes of all sorts, bruises by falls and ruptures. It is one of the most singular wound herbs and therefore highly prized and praised, used in all wounds inward and outward, to drink a decoction thereof and wash the wounds therewith, or dip tents therein and put them into the wounds which wonderfully drieth up all humidity of the sores and abateth all inflammations thereof. It quickly healeth green wounds, not suffering any corruption to remain behind and cureth old sores, though fistulous and hollow.’
In modern herbal treatment, it is employed as a cure for excessive menstruation and is taken internally as an infusion 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water) in teacupful doses as required and the same infusion is also employed as an injections.
A strong decoction of the fresh root, by some considered the most valuable part of the plant, has also been recommended as excellent to stop all bleedings, and the root dried and reduced to powder is considered to answer the same purpose and to be good for violent purgings.
In Sweden, a tincture of the leaves has been given in cases of spasmodic or convulsive diseases, and an old authority states that if placed under the pillow at night, the herb will promote quiet sleep.
Fluid extract, dose, 1/2 to 1 drachm.
Horses and sheep like the plant, and it has therefore been suggested as a profitable fodder plant, but the idea has proved unpractical. Grazing animals will not eat the leaves till the moisture in them is dissipated.
Alchemilla alpine, a mountain variety,found on the banks of Scotch rivulets. The leaves are deeply divided into five oblong leaflets and are thickly covered with lustrous silky hairs. A form of this plant in which the leaflets are connate for one-third of their length is known as A. conjuncta.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
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