Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Plants in France: Lady's Mantle

Lady’s Mantle often said to be a magical plant and has long been associated with the alchemists. People have long been fascinated with the perfect little droplets of morning dew are found on the leaves and these drops continue to persist well after dew has dried from other plants. This water was collected and used by alchemists in their attempts to create gold. 

Herbalist Maurice Mességué romantically proclaims it is not morning dew but water created from the plant itself. However you look at it though, this little plant is full of magic. I started growing it this year in my garden and now it’s a morning ritual of mine to head outside first thing to see all the beautiful droplets. 

You can see other posts in this series here: Linden and Gentian

The genus name, Alchemilla, means, little alchemist while the species, vulgaris, indicates it is common. We typically use Alchemilla vulgaris for herbal medicine but there are over 300 species of Lady’s mantle and many are used similarly. 

It is Native to Europe and Asia but widely cultivated in gardens. I loved seeing Lady’s Mantle growing wild in France. I most commonly saw it in higher elevations.

Lady’s mantle is in the rose family, or Rosaceae, and is used in a similar way to many rose family plants. (Or as the herbalist Michael Moore coined, YARFA, yet another rose family astringent.)

The flowers bloom roughly from June to August and each plant has lots of numerous small flowers which are green to yellow in color. The flowers do not have petals. The leaves are what are typically harvested for medicine and they are ideally harvested before the plant flowers. 

Long associated with women’s health. Lady’s Mantle gets its common name from a German translation and is also associated with the virgin Mary, which is why the name is Lady’s Mantle with a ‘y’ and not Ladies’ mantle with an ‘ie’. 

The French have a couple names for this plant. One is Peid-de-leon or Lion’s foot because the leaves look like a lion’s paw. It is also referred to as ALCHÉMILLE. 

If you wanted to sum up Lady’s mantle quickly one might say it is a rose family astringent and it is used in many of the classic ways that we use astringents. Such as spongy lax tissues such as bleeding gums, diarrhea and to stop bleeding. 

Nowadays Lady’s Mantle is strongly connected to women’s health. It is used for excessive menstruation, uterine fibroids, as a tonic taken just before labor as well as postpartum. It’s used for leucorrhea and vaginal infections. Nicholas Culpeper recommended it as a fertility herb. 

Before it was associated so strongly with women, it was most famous as an herb for wounds. It was used on the battle field as well as for infected wounds such as gangrene. The root was especially prized as a styptic herb, or an herb that stops bleeding. 

Lady's mantle is a bitter astringent best known as a remedy for female problems dependent on prolapse and boggy, damp, weak tissue. As a bitter astringent it acts on both atrophy and relaxation to increase healthy nutrition and decrease unhealthy dampness. It removes water from the tissues, at the same time improving the quality of the fluids.
Matt Wood

Matt Wood also cites sources that use Lady’s mantle primarily as an herb for the heart, to tone the cardiovascular system. He also mentions its use for healing hernias and other ruptured membranes such as perforated ears. 

Here’s a simple rose family tea that uses Lady’s Mantle. It is astringent and tonifying to the uterus. I use this formula for leukorrhea or dampness in the lower burner. 

Do you use Lady's Mantle? 
I'd love to hear how you are using this magical plant. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Plants in France: Linden

In the spring of 2011 I traveled to France with my (French) husband, Xavier. Like most herbalists on vacation, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to see plants! In this Plants in France article series I am  bringing you photos and lore of some of western herbalism’s favorite plants from locations while highlighting French locations, history and use. This article series is based on the video series that is published at

First, I'll bring you Linden! Linden trees are adored in France. They line the streets of Paris, cover lakeside boardwalks and reside in many medicinal gardens. It has been used as food and medicine in France and is commonly drank as an after dinner tisane.

It is called Lime tree in Britain, sometimes Basswood in north america and here in France they call it Tilleul. The genus is Tilia. There are about 30 different species of linden and they all can be used interchangeably. Linden was classified in it’s own family, the Tiliaceae, but DNA testing has now placed it in the Mallow family. Other plants in the mallow family include common mallow, marshmallow and hibisicus and all are known for the demulcent or mucilagneous qualities and the same goes for linden. 

This linden tree is growing in a medieval castle in Tarascon France

Linden grows ALL over France. It was the first ‘herb’ that I recognized when we arrived in Paris, as it often lines the streets there. 

You can see it is in full bloom here and it smelled heavenly! While walking around we often smelled the linden trees before we find them. The bees love linden so much you can also often hear their fervent buzz as a clue that linden is nearby.

Various parts of the linden tree are medicinal as well as edible. The flowers and leaves are the parts most often used. It makes a delicious tea or infusion and some western herbalists also tincture this. It is commonly used as a relaxing nervine, relaxing diaphoretic and for people with high blood pressure. 

Energetically it is cooling and moistening. 

For more medicinal information on linden see my monograph. 

As a relaxing nervine it is perfect for those type-A personalities who are high strung and going going going. David Hoffman recommends it as a bath herb to be taken at night for restless children. 

As a relaxing diaphoretic it is used during fevers where the person feels hot and is restless. This is a wonderful remedy for people of all ages, including children, because it tastes great, it helps to open the pores to let the heat out, but is also moistening to the body. It has other applications for symptoms of the cold and flu as well. It’s can relieve pectoral symptoms such as congestion and coughing. 

I like to infused linden in honey for sore throats. 

This past spring my area experienced an epidemic of whooping cough and I used linden along with marshmallow root and lemon balm leaf as a supportive tea throughout the day. Many parents reported their children had few coughs while when they drank the tea. 

Herbalist Sharol Tilgner says that it can shorten the duration of viral outbreaks such as herpes.
Here the linden is growing at the base of an ancient chateau.

French herbalist Maurice Messèguè recommends taking it frequently to prevent disease. He says that it will help "protect the heart and keep one happy". 

This plant is high in flavonoids which are known to protect the heart and recently research says it has liver protecting properties as well. My husband and I drink linden in our nourishing infusions almost daily and often combine it with the leaves and flowers of hawthorn, another nourishing herb for the heart. 

Because it tastes so lovely it is often served after dinner as a pleasurable drink. One frequent combination in france was linden, lavender and lemon balm. 

To make a simple tea you can use about a teaspoon of the herb in a cup of boiled water, steep for 15 minutes and enjoy. I usually make this as an infusion, which is where you place an ounce of the herb in a quart jar, fill that with boiled water and let sit for about four hours. I love to drink this chilled on a hot summer day. 

The bark is also sold here as a gentle laxative. I’ve also seen references to eating the bark as food, but dosage here is probably key. 

Linden bark was readily available at health food stores in France. 

These deciduous trees can grow to be quite big and they can live up to a thousand years. I saw one reference of a tree that is 2,000 years old. 

During WWII France used the leaves and flowers as a food supplement. They ground these finely and added it to other flours for baked goods. 

I learned in the Herbalpedia reference that the fruits of the linden tree were once made into a kind of chocolate in the 18th century when  French chemist noticed they have a chocolate like flavor. It didn’t catch on at the time though because it didn’t keep very well.

The young leaves can be eaten. Wild foraging expert Sam Thayer says it is one of his most favorite greens to eat. Herbalist Ananda Wilson tells me the fruits while still green are also delicious. 

So that’s a little bit about linden. If you are lucky enough to have one of these growing near you I hope you are able to enjoy it thoroughly. I adored seeing it all over France and we were frequently served linden tea after dinner.