Lady’s Mantle - an investigation into the historical uses of Alchemilla vulgaris and a contemporary Goethean plant study.
Alchemilla vulgaris, Lady’s Mantle, has a reputation for having been traditionally highly respected as a medicinal herb; its name is thought to have been given by the Arabic alchemists in reference to the high regard in which it was held. However, modern attitudes to it vary greatly and very little research has been carried out into either its therapeutic efficacy or its chemical composition. It is thought by many to be primarily a tannin astringent.
A literature search was carried out to try to trace the origins of the herb’s reputation. Most of the literature reviewed was British, including the work of physicians and writers such as John Parkinson and Gerard, but translations and facsimiles of other works, such as those of Diascorides and Dodoens D Rembert, were also included. It was found that accurate references before the early 17th century were not available within this search. Early European manuscripts, particularly translations of the work of the Arab physicians and alchemists such as Avicenna, may have references to the herb, but were not within the scope of this paper. There is no doubt, however, it has been widely used in parts of the world, including Britain.
The range of conditions for which Lady’s Mantle has been used is wider than might have been expected. It is an astringent, used as a wound herb, including internal ruptures, wounds and ulcers, and for diarrhoea; it has long been used to regulate menstruation in women, for leucorrhoea and as a parfum preparatory. It has also been used as a circulatory tonic, as an anti-inflammatory, as an anti-convulsant and febrifuge. There are mentions of it being used in diabetes, as a general metabolic remedy and for its use in pulmonary and kidney diseases.
A Goethean Science plant study was carried out, using a method of research developed by the Anthroposophical movement. This was held before the literature search, partly to help avoid any preconceptions of the plant being carried into the plant study, intended to add to existing knowledge of the herb. The conclusions were that Alchemilla vulgaris would be a valuable remedy for the uterus, foetus and baby, heart, and metabolic balance, all of which concur with traditional therapeutic uses of the herb found through the literature search.