Ladys Bedstraw

(Galium verum) The medieval legend was that the Virgin Mary lay on a bed of bracken and bedstraw. Bracken refused to acknowledge the child, and lost its flowers. This bedstraw, on the other hand, welcomed the child, and, blossoming at that moment, found its flowers changed from white to gold. Other plants with the same claim are Woodruff and Groundsel. Another version of the legend says that it was the only plant in the stable that the donkey did not eat (Grigson. 1955). Sudeten women would put it in their beds to make childbirth easier and safer, a belief that follows the early legend naturally. And since women who have just had a child are susceptible to attack from demons, they would not go out unless they had some Lady's Bedstraw with them in their shoes (Grigson. 1955). There is some evidence that it was used in love philtres (Dyer. 1889). See Gerard: "the root ... drunke in wine stirreth up bodily lust, and the flowers smelled unto works the same effect".

It is a sign of rain if Lady's Bedstraw becomes inflated and gives out a strong smell (Inwards). There are a number of Cheese-rennet, or curdling names given to this plant, reminders that it served this purpose in the past. Gerard, for instance: "the people of Cheshire, especially about Namptwich, where the best cheese is made, doe use it in their Rennet, esteeming greatly for that Cheese above other made without it". Double Gloucester cheese has nettle mixed with the Lady's Bedstraw (M Baker. 1980). Dried plants could be used for lining wardrobes, to deter moths (Vickery. 1995). The root was used on South Uist, and on Jura, for dyeing wool orange red (Shaw; Pennant. 1772). The tops, with alum, give a yellow dye (SM Robertson), and the same preparation will serve as a hair dye (Leyel. 1937).

Lady's Bedstraw was commonly used as a styptic (Grigson. 1955). Culpeper recommended it (as bruised flowers) to put up the nostrils to stop a nosebleed. Gerard, too mentioned the property: "the floures . is used in ointments against burnings, and it stauncheth blood". Externally, the infusion is used as an application to wounds and skin eruptions (Fl├╝ck). This infusion is still a popular remedy in gravel, stone and urinary diseases (Grieve. 1931).

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