Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
by Leslie Lekos
Alchemilla vulgaris, Lady’s Mantle is a beautiful display of elegance and strength. This stately plant has uniquely ruffled scalloped bluish green leaves that are finely toothed at the edges and covered with soft fine hairs and a slight waxy coating. Its flowering stalks, or racemes, at first glance appear lacy bearing tiny star-like yellow green flowers. Most notable, this plant has an exquisite ability to funnel and collect morning dew upon its leaves, which persists well into the day when all other dew has long since evaporated.
The longevity of the dew upon the leaves has been of antiquated interest to alchemists, giving this plant its Genus name Alchemilla, which derives from the Arabic word Alkemelych, meaning alchemy. Vulgaris, its species name, translates from Latin as common, referring to its ubiquitous nature. The Alchemists found this plant, particularly the dew, interesting in the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone, which was believed to turn lead into gold and cure any disease. There are undoubtedly many who find this plant to obtain special powers. I’ve heard ancient tales of monasteries utilizing this dew that has not touched the ground in working with magical flight.
This Rose Family native of Europe is somewhat available in commercial herbal trade. However, it is a very easy plant to grow, at least here in the Pacific Northwest where I live. The leaves are most commonly used medicinally, but also the flowering stalks. The roots were used more commonly in the past and have a stronger astringent property. Interestingly, Lady’s Mantle is a medicinal plant that I find under utilized in my herbal community. Many people seem to know about Lady’s Mantle, but few seem to use it frequently.
Traditionally, amongst olden day herbalists, Alchemilla was prized as one of the very best wound healing herbs, even for infected wounds and cases of gangrene. Most likely the wound healing properties are due largely in part to its rich tannin content, which consists mainly of glycosides of ellagic acid (Hoffman 2003). Tannins give plants their astringent or binding qualities that when applied to the skin, make it a valuable remedy for healing skin abrasions. Astringency has an overall drying effect on tissue, drawing it together. Astringency can act also as a styptic, which works to quell bleeding; and can also be beneficial for tissues that are lacking tone, as we will see throughout this discussion.
Historically, we see references of Lady’s Mantle’s support of gum issues, particularly bleeding gums and inflammation. Again, this astringent action works to draw and knit the tissues together creating a less permeable environment, lessening susceptibility to infection and bleeding. There is also reference in the literature of Lady’s Mantle’s effectiveness as a mouthwash for sores, ulcers and a gargle for laryngitis (Hoffman 2003). However, I have not used it in this way as of yet.
Alchemilla also has historic and current use in cases of mild diarrhea. In fact, the German E Commission has approved this herbs safety for this use and states its usefulness in “light and non specific diarrhea.” In this scenario, and for use as a mouth rinse, a stronger infusion is recommended rather than a general tea (recipe at end of article) and the use of the root may be useful here as well.
Nicolas Culpepper (1616-1654) states that, “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 (Grieve 1971)”.
Lady’s Mantle has developed a reputation in current herbal repertories as a “women’s herb”. (Yes, I am very much aware that there is a debate as to whether an herb can embody properties specific to a given gender and even more importantly I want to give voice that gender is certainly not binary). For the purposes of this discussion I will use the term “female” to refer to organs commonly known as the uterus, ovaries and breasts, but I acknowledge that those terms do not ascribe/assign gender. The point I mean to make is this, Lady’s Mantle has a way of influencing and promoting well being in many conditions relating to what is generally referred to as “female” reproductive organs and issues.
Lady’s Mantle is an ally for an array of menstrual ailments. As mentioned above its astringent nature makes it helpful in stanching excessive menstrual flow in cases of menorrhagia, excessive menstrual flow and metrorrhagia, when menstrual bleeding happens at irregular times in between menstruation. You could also think of this plant for other conditions that include excessive vaginal discharge like in yeast infections, vaginitis and other issues of discharge. Lady’s Mantle can also be helpful in formulas for menstrual cramping when there is a dull achy pain caused by congestion, sometimes referred to as a “boggy” quality to the uterus.
Interestingly, this plant is also known as an emmenogogue (menstrual promoting) and is used to promote proper menstrual flow. This is counter intuitive due to its astringing actions. Lady’s Mantle, like many other plants posses this miraculous amphoteric ability. Alchemilla also has a reputation in helping with easing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
Some other specific conditions where this action could be useful could be in cases endometriosis or fibroids with excessive bleeding because Lady’s Mantle tones and dries the womb and pelvic area. In her book, Herbal Remedies for Women, Amanda McQuade Crawford (1997) states that astringent herbs with an affinity for the uterus like Lady’s Mantle are primary herbs to think of in cases of cervical dysplasia.
Matthew Wood gives the constitutional indications, meaning the typical picture of the person needing Lady’s Mantle, as “the pale, anemic, sensitive woman with prominent blue veins and moist skin” as well as the indicators of “nervousness, agitation, insomnia and mood swings” (2008).
Lady’s Mantle also has been helpful in cases of infertility. Nicolas Culpepper recommended it as a fertility herb. Christopher Hedley on Henriette Kress’s blog writes that Lady’s Mantle often helps in cases of infertility all by itself. However, other herbs could be added according to the indications presented by the individual.
This plant really shines during the postpartum time period. Most notably, in my work as a doula and with lactation support I have recommended this herb to women who have expressed disappointment with the tone of their breasts after lactation. After several weeks of applying daily compresses of strong Lady’s Mantle tea and drinking the tea or taking a tincture daily (ratios and recipes follow), several women have expressed satisfaction with the results. I learned about using Lady’s Mantle for this indication from Matthew Wood. In his book, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood writes, “It lifts tissue and structures that have become bogged down: sagging breasts after lactation and abdominal tissue following childbirth” (2008). This is in tune with what I have seen with my post-natal clients.
After pondering how this could work so remarkably and why, I thought of the dew drop sitting on the leaf round and plump. Somehow Lady’s Mantle encourages water to rest there round and full on its leaves, even resisting the strong forces of evaporation. I can’t help but draw a correlation between the way the leaves hold water droplets in this round shape and also its enactment upon the breasts in this way.
The tea of the leaves sipped throughout the weeks post partum also assists the uterus to regain its natural inherent tone. It is a specific herb to think of if there is a prolapse of organs, like the uterus or bladder, post birth. In this case, I recommend both drinking the tea daily and partaking in sitz baths multiple times a day with just Lady’s Mantle. Of course, for prolapsed organs it is very important to consult your medical practitioner! Adding Lady’s Mantle to sitz bath preparations is also helpful for healing the perianal and vaginal tissues if there has been any tearing. (Recipe below). Additionally, Matthew Wood writes how Lady’s Mantle strengthens fibers and is helpful for restoring tone to lax tissues like pelvic floor muscles and also hernia and rectal tears (2008)
Lady’s Mantle can also be helpful emotionally after birth. Herbalist jim mcdonald told me he finds Lady’s Mantle useful for people who suffer from disappointment after a birth that did not go as planned. Maybe there is a feeling like the body couldn’t do it or a feeling that the body let you down. According to jim, who learned about this from Robin Rose Bennett, Lady’s Mantle not only helps us to heal emotionally from these disappointments, but also from trauma past or present, related to the “female” organs/anatomy. Women have found emotional support from Lady’s Mantle after abortion, miscarriage and also for working through issues of sexual trauma.
It is mentioned in the literature that Lady’s Mantle is helpful for hemorrhage. However, postpartum bleeding can be a very serious situation and can quickly lead to fatality. Therefore, it always makes me nervous when I see this suggested use in our herbals. Historically, relying on herbs such as this was of more importance because other modern day drugs like Pitocin and others were not available. However, for non-urgent post partum bleeding, Lady’s Mantle might be a good choice; however, I urge extreme caution in cases of acute post partum bleeding. I am glad though to see that these references are still known even though medically we live in a different world today where this use is not as relevant.
As far as contraindications go, Lady’s Mantle is widely known as very safe. Sharol Tilgner (1999) makes a reference to the fact that Lady’s Mantle can antagonize with the drug Pitocin, but other than that I have not found any other contraindications noted with the use of Lady’s Mantle. Energetically, using an herb with a drying effect like Lady’s Mantle, with someone who already has a proclivity towards being dry is something to take into consideration. If considering long-term use for those with dry constitutions it might be helpful to add some moistening herbs that align with a persons given indications into the formula to balance the overall all drying/moistening effect.
It seems that Lady’s Mantle is an undervalued medicinal plant that is, not only easy to grow, but also a sustainable and invaluable herb to incorporate into our practices. The tea from the leaves is quite delicious. It has a rich nutritive taste with a delicious green tea like flavor. While some of the literature suggests that Lady’s Mantle has a slight bitter flavor, personally, I have found the bitterness to be very slight. The taste reminds me of a blend of rose, green tea and oatstraw tea.
Lady’s Mantle is a cherished plant to gardeners around the globe. It readily volunteers once established in the garden. Flowers bloom here, in the Pacific Northwest, from June to August and if cut, a second bloom often occurs in the Fall. Alchemilla likes to be well watered and thrives in conditions anywhere from partial shade to full sun. It is hardy in zones 5 to 9.
You can buy a plant start here from this excellent business, Crimson Sage Nursery in Northern California: https://www.crimson-sage.com/store/l/ladysmantle162-detail. Or Strictly Medicinal offers excellent seed here in Southern Oregon: https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/product/ladys-mantle-alchemilla-vulgaris-packet-of-50-seeds-organic/
Making Medicine Preparation Information:
Tea: To make a tea, pour 1 cup of hot water over 2-3 Tablespoons of Lady’s Mantle leaf and/or flowering stalks. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes with a lid.
Tincture: To make a tincture, tincture it 1:5 in 25-30% alcohol. An average dose is 2 to 4 mL three times a day.
Spageric: Organic Unity makes an exquisite Lady’s Mantle preparation, as are all of their medicines! Here is a link: http://www.organic-unity.com/products-page/spagyric-essences/wild-rose-spagyric-essence-duplicate/
Recipe for Lady’s Mantle Breast Compress
Boil water and then steep 4 tablespoons of Lady’s Mantle leaves in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Strain and then while the tea is warm dip a clean washcloth into the tea. Wring out the towel slightly and apply one tea soaked cloth to each breast for 10 minutes. You can do several compresses each day. Use a clean towel for each application.
Recipe for Post Partum Tea
2 parts Lady’s Mantle leaf
2 parts Raspberry leaf
2 parts Lemon Verbena
1 part Rose
Boil water and steep 2 Tablespoons of the tea mixture in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink daily as desired.
Recipe for Sitz Bath
2 parts Lady’s Mantle leaves and flowering stalks and/or root
2 parts Comfrey leaf
2 parts Witch Hazel leaves and/or bark
2 parts Plantain
2 parts Calendula
2 parts Yarrow
1 part Lavender
Steep 2-4 Tbsp of the above sitz bath tea in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes to overnight. Strain and use in a peri bottle to wash over tissues several times per day or sit in a shallow basin of the tea for 10-15 minutes several times per day.
Directions for a Stronger Infusion for Mouth Sores, Gum Diseases and Mild Diarrhea
For use as a mouth rinse or during cases of mild diarrhea steep 4 Tbsp. of leaf in 1 cup of hot water and then bring it up to a simmer for a few minutes to extract out more of the tannin content. Simmer with a lid to hold in any volatile oils. This plant is not markedly high in volatile compounds but it does contain some.
German E Commission writes that an average daily dose for Lady’s Mantle is 5-10 grams of herb or equivalent preparation
Leslie Lekos is the director of Wildroot Herb School in Bellingham, WA
which offers herbal courses and intensives by top-notch herbalist from around the country. She also offers a line of sustainable wild harvested and organically grown hydrosols and essential oils on her etsy shop at www.wildroot.etsy.com. Leslie is a birth doula and her herbal consultation practice specializes in pregnancy and children. She is a certified Iyengar teacher and co-author of the book Yoga for Pregnancy.
"Conversations on Lady's Mantle." Personal conversation with Sean Donahue, jim mcdonald and Rosalee de la Forêt. 29 Jan. 2017.
"Endometriosis." Endometriosis. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017. http://www.henriettes-herb.com/archives/best/1994/endo.html
"Infertility." Infertility. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
"Lady's Mantle Organic." Star Child Herbs: LADY'S MANTLE - Organic (Alchemilla Vulgaris) on Star Child. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
"Lady’s Mantle - American Botanical Council." The Commission E Monographs - American Botanical Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
“Postpartum Bleed.” Postpartum Bleed. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017. http://www.henriettes-herb.com/archives/best/1995/postp-bleed.html
Forêt, Rosalee de La. "Plants in France: Lady's Mantle." Methow Valley Herbs. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 25 Feb. 2017. http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2012/08/plants-in-france-ladys-mantle.html
Grieve, Mrs. M. 1971. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications. New York.
Hoffman, David. 1996. The Complete Illustrated Herbal. Barnes and Noble. Italy.
Hoffman, David. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, VT.
McQuade Crawford, Amanda. 1999. Herbal Remedies for Women. Three Rivers Press. New York, NY.
Tilgner, Sharol. N.D 1999. Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth. Wise Acres Publishing. Creswell, OR.
Weed, Susan. Breast Cancer? Breast Health The Wise Woman Way
Wood, Matthew. 2008. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World
Medicine. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA.
Wood, Matthew. 2016. The Earthwise Herbal Repertory. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA.