Lady’s Mantle

Lady’s Mantle

Alchemilla mollis

Family  Rosaceae
Genus  Alchemilla
Species mollis

Synonyms and Common names: Lion's Foot, Bear's Foot, Nine Hooks,.

Description and Habitat:  A charming little plant with frothy lime-green flowers in early summer and neatly pleated apple-green, fan-shaped leaves which persist all season. Being only six to 10 inches high, with flower stems hovering slightly above this, it can be found along walks or in the front of a border.  It is easily missed if not known about and takes on the general ‘greenery’ often mistook for a weed.   Massed, it can be used as a ground cover. It requires part shade in the South but can take full sun in warmer climates provided there is adequate moisture. A moist, fertile soil is ideal.  The flowers are very small, under ¼ inch wide. Generally they are yellow, but they may be greenish.

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.

Parts used: leaves and flowering shoots.

Collection: The leaves and stems are collected between mid-summer and late summer.

Constituents: tannin, bitter principle, traces of essential oil, salicylic acid

Actions: astringent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, vulnerary

Indications:  As its name indicates, Lady's mantle is recommended to treat female problems, such as painful menstruation.  It is indicated in atonic conditions such as uterine or bladder atony or prolapse, vaginal laxity and passive haemorrhage and menorrhagia. It is also used with dysmenorrhea and habitual miscarriages due to an incompetent cervix.

Therapeutics and Pharmacologhy: 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.

Lady’s Mantle and other species of Alchemilla have been widely used in folk medicine throughout Europe. The herb will help reduce pains associated with menstruation, excessive bleeding and the bloated feeling before menstruation occurs. It also has a role to play in easing the changes of the menopause. As an emmenagogue it stimulates proper menstrual flow if there is any resistance.

Its astringency provides it with a role in the treatment of diarrhoea, as a mouthwash for sores and ulcers and as a gargle for laryngitis.

A strong decoction of the fresh root, is considered the most valuable part of the plant, and 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 purging, (to remove from the body what is impure, poisoning etc.)

Contraindications. Lady's mantle antagonises the drug pitocin. (causes the uterus to contract, therefore bringing on, or speeds up labour)   Do not use this Herb in pregnancy.

Preparation and dosage:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes, drink 3 times a day. A stronger dosage is made by boiling the herb for a few minutes to extract all the tannin.
Tincture: take 2 to 4ml of the tincture 3 times a day.

Additional comments & Folklore: The common name, Lady's Mantle was first bestowed on it by the sixteenth-century botanist, Jerome Bock, always known by a 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, the Herb 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 medieval 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.'

The generic name Alchemilla is derived from the Arabic word, Alkemelych (alchemy), and was bestowed on it, according to some old writers, because of the wonder-working powers of the plant.  Others held that the alchemical virtues lay in the subtle influence the foliage imparted to the dewdrops that lay in its furrowed leaves and in the little cup formed by its joined stipules, these dewdrops constituting part of many mystic potions.

Other sources say that Lady's Mantle acquired its Latin name Alchemilla (translated as "little alchemist" or "little magical one"), because it was favoured by Alchemists who believed the plant to possess magical healing properties. Alchemists would collect the dew from the plant's leaves and use it in their formulas, believing that it could purify and cleanse any illness.

Country people gathered this dew and used it as a beauty lotion. Culpeper claimed that women with sagging breasts could make them firm and rounded by smearing them with the juice of this plant. A pillow filled with the flowers was said to induce a good night’s sleep.