Lady's Mantle (alchemilla vulgaris) was associated with the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages and the lobed leaves resemble the scalloped edges of a cloak or mantle, as worn by the Virgin in medieval paintings. However, the 'lady' element may refer to the herb's value in treating female disorders.
The generic name 'alchemilla', from the Arabic word for 'alchemy', is due to the wonderful way in which dew drops are held in the leaves of the plant. These magical droplets, believed to be imbued with the powers of the herb, are prized for use in potions. Other common names are Lion's Foot, Bear's Foot and Nine Hooks (all stemming from the distinctive shape of the leaf).
Lady's Mantle is astringent and styptic (or 'drying' and 'binding' in character) and has a history of use as a vulnerary (or wound herb). It was popular on the battlefields of the 15th and 16th centuries and Culpepper recommended it for inflamed wounds, to dry up 'humidity' and abate inflammation, suggesting that a decoction be drunk and the wound washed or dressed with it. The infusion is still recommended as a wash for weeping eczema or sores to this day.
The herb's ability to control bleeding and other discharges is used in modern herbalism to treat excessive menstruation and diarrhoea - an infusion is taken, up to five times a day in an acute case of diarrhoea - as well as vaginal discharge and itching, where the infusion is used as a wash. The root is used to stop bleeding, either taken fresh in a decoction or dried and powdered, and the particular affinity of Lady's Mantle with women's healing continues in the prescription of the tincture for period pain and menstrual irregularities.
Flowers June - August
Gather the whole herb in June - July while in flower and leaves at their best.
CAUTION: Do not use in Pregnancy
PLEASE NOTE: These notes on the history and use of herbs have been compiled for general interest and are not intended as medical advice, for which you should consult a professional herbalist.
'A Modern Herbal' Mrs M. Grieve FRHS ed. Mrs C. F. Leyel (1973)
'The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal' Penelope Ody MNIMH (1993)
'RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses' Deni Brown (2002)