Lady's Mantle { Past and present medicinal uses}

Foliage of Lady's mantle

Source

Alpine Lady's mantle

geograph.org.uk
geograph.org.uk | Source

Introduction

Lady's mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris, belongs to the order of plants known as the Rosales and the family Rosaceae {rose family}. They have been allocated the genus name of Alchemilla which alludes to the old alchemist, and the specific name of vulgaris indicating a common plant.

Alchemists considered the dew that collected on its foliage to possess extraordinary properties. This probably derives from the fact that the plant seemed to have these dew drops on their foliage even when other plants around them were perfectly dry. The dew drops were employed in many mystic potions. In actual fact these 'dew drops' are formed by a process known as guttation, when the plant ejects excess water via pores in the foliage where it collects.

The common name of Lady's mantle { the mantle of the Lady -Virgin Mary'} in allusion to the shape and elegant plaiting of the leaves. In different parts of the UK they were also referred to by the country names of Great sanicle and Bear's foot. Another species that occurs is the Alpine Lady'd mantle A.alpina, a most beautiful species,somewhat resembling A.vulgaris, but is distinguished by its digitate leaves which are beautifully silky beneath. It grows as its name suggests on the mountains in the north of the UK.

Here we review the species Alchemilla vulgaris, and its past and present medicinal uses. As always we start with a description of the subject under review.

Components of Lady's mantle

Billeder of Norden's Flora
Billeder of Norden's Flora

Description of the Lady's mantle

The root of this species is brown black externally marked with the annular remains of former leaves,and from it arises the slender erect stems about one foot in height. The whole plant is clothed with soft hairs.

The lower radical leaves are relatively large on long stalks .They are pretty in form and can attain the diameter of six to eight inches though generally less. They are roundish or kidney shaped in general outline and their margins are cut into seven or mostly nine broad shallow lobes,Finely toothed along the margins giving rise to country names such as nine-hooks. The stem leaves are similar either on short stalks or almost stalk-less, and are much smaller,gradually getting more so towards the summit. A noticeable feature is the leaf-like stipules,also toothed which embrace the stem.

The flowers are small, numerous ,and of a yellow-green colour. The individual flowers are about an eighth of an inch wide and are borne in loose clusters {corymbs} at the summit of the stem and branches,each has a short stalk. There are no petals, the calyx is five cleft with four conspicuous little bracteoles that give the appearance of outer and alternate segments of the calyx. Their stamens number four inserted in the mouth of the calyx.

The fruit consists of one or two oblong,compressed one-seeded nuts or carpels enclosed in the tube of the calyx. The plant is native to Europe and parts of Siberia,occurring in Alpine woods and pastures and in similar situations in the UK. It flowers from June to August.

Yellow Green flowers of Lady's mantle

Source

Past medicinal uses and historical observations.

The fresh root ,when cut,has a whitish colour,an unpleasant odour,and a styptic taste. The herbaceous parts are somwhat austere to the taste, but is nearly destitute of odour. Its virtues are obtained by decoction and infusion,both in water and alcohol/spirits.

The aqueous infusion of the leaves is of a transparent dark brown hue, but scarcely affects litmus paper. It changes to a bluish-black colour by the addition of Sulphate of iron,and a precipitate is slowly produced. The aqueous extract {according to Med.tom i page 42} has the odour of honey and an acrid austere taste.It is much more abundant than the alcohol extract which exhales a balsamic odour.

The plant has received extravagant praises for its efficacy in alvine fluxes,diabetes,dysentry,wounds of every kind { Schroder page 529} . Linnaeus, relates ,that during a spasmodic epidemic disease which prevailed in Smoland {historical province of Sweden} in 1754,a tincture of the leaves of this plant was used with much success by the peasantry. { Amoen.Acad.Vol vi page 447}.

However, the British Flora Medica ( 1858),states " Notwithstanding these eulogia, a sober estimate of the virtues of Alchemilla will not allow it any very eminent station in therapeutics, and is now seldom employed"

other herbalists state that in the character of a mild astringent. it may be useful in certain cases of internal ulcers, leuorrhea, chronic diarrhoea, and dysentry. It was administered by infusion or decoction, to the extent of four or five ounces, and the root was preferred to the leaves as being more active.

Culpeper, {1600's}, says of it " Lady'e mantle is very proper for inflammed wounds, and to stay bleeding, vomiting, fluxes of all kinds, bruises by falls and ruptures;It is one of the 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 wherein and put them into the wounds which wonderfully drieth up all the humidity of the sores and abateth all the inlfammations thereof; It quickly heals green wounds, not suffering any corruption to remain behind and cureth old sores though fistulous and hollow."

Along with Shepherd's purse it was given after childbirth to stop bleeding in some countries. Some writers remark that Lady's mantle can be used in tanning.

Modern day uses

It seems that the writers that advocated its us in tanning were on the right track for modern day science testifies that the plant is rich in tannin. The roots have astringent properties as do the roots therefore it is thought useful in applying to wounds and cuts and to be taken internally for diarrhoea. The leaves can be crushed and placed directly on wounds and even bee stings.

Lady's mantle combined with Mentha logifolia is recommended by some herbalists as being useful in the process of weight loss in the case of obesity. As its common name suggests the plant was,and,still is used to relieve menstrual problems such a heavy bleeding or cramps. Mentrual pains as well as regulating periods can be achieved by the use of Lady's mantle.

Herbalists recommend decoctions made from Lady's mantle to be used as vaginal douches or as a lotion. As a lotion it can be usefully applied to the skin in the cases of rashes and eczema. many herbalists recommend an infusion to be used as a mouthwash or gargle for the treatment of bleeding gums or to treat mouth ulcers. Taken internally it is an aid to restring appetite and to ease stomach ailments.

The aerial parts of the plant should be gathered after the dew has dried during July and August. A tea made from infusing 1 tbsp of dried herb in hot water for ten minutes then strained can be taken in the dose of one cup daily. For external uses such as a lotion the amount of herb should be increased to 4 tbsp of dried herb in a cup of water for ten minutes. Then strain.

Pregnant women are advised not to take this drug.

FOR THE FORAGER---For culinary uses the torn young leaves can be eaten in salads. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste that some individuals like and others do not. Lady's mantle is not commonly used as a culinary herb. As the leaves grow older they become ever more bitter so only young leaves should be harvested. Wash them . The slightly bitter taste makes a bland salad much more interesting.

If you are trying a herb {this or any other} for the first time just try a little at first to test your body tolerance.

Alchemilla mollis is a favourite garden variety

Source

Alchemilla xanthochlora

Another popular garden species
Another popular garden species | Source

Lady's mantle and the garden

This pretty herb has beautiful foliage and produces a plethora of small yellowish-green flowers,during the summer months.

They are a genus of perennials,some make excellent ground cover which helps to suppress weeds. They are fully hardy and will tolerate boggy soils ,in the sun or partial shade. They may be propagated by seed or by division. Lady's mantle self-seeds freely. There are many varieties now available for the gardener. Below are examples that can be obtained from garden centers and nurseries.

Alpine Lady's mantle. Alchemilla alpina {Pictured above} is a mound forming perennial attaining the height of just 15 cm { six inches} with a spread of 60 cm { two feet} or more. They produce rounded,lobed pale green-leaves covered in silky hairs.It is suitable for ground cover and dry banks.

Alchemilla conjuncta is a clump forming perennial that produces neat wavy star-shaped leaves with pale margins. They have loose clusters of tiny greenish yellow flowers that appear in mid summer.

Alchemilla mollis,is a clump forming, ground cover . This perennial has pale green foliage with crinkled edges. It bears small sprays of bright greenish yellow flowers in mid summer. It attains the height and spread of 20 inches {50 cm} . The flowers of this species are good for drying.

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7 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 21 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author

tobusiness,

Hi Thank you for leaving your kind comments it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 21 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

A very informative hub. I always have lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in the garden. It doesn't need much maintenance and makes a great filler or ground cover, lookes great after a down pour and now I know even more about this useful little plant. Great hub.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

aviannovice ,

Hi deb, they do attract bees but so many as those plants with larger flowers. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Looks like a great plant. Does it attract bees?


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Ericdieker,

Hello, Thank you my friend your comments are most encouraging. Best wishes to you.

DDE,

hello Devika, Thank you also for your usual kind comments. It is always good to see you here. best wishes to you.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Great stuff here. That scientific portion was just right. And pretty pics!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Great hub! A beautiful plant with such helpful modern use including the past uses. I understand why many people prefer herb remedies. The unique ways to heal for simple ailments explains it all here.

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